When Lawrence Mbuthia returned from Australia after two years of study and realised that there were huge, unaccounted-for sums of money missing from his company’s accounts, he reported the matter to the police, saying his wife was the prime suspect. The officers, however, shrugged it off as a “domestic issue that requires a domestic solution”. So he sought the help of a private investigator.
“My brother told me that my wife was rumoured to be having an affair, and that she and her lover were already building a house in Kamulu. She had even given my car to the man, and they had travelled out of the country several times,” Mr Mbuthia said.
When he hired an auditor to review the company’s accounts, he discovered that huge amounts of money had been deposited into his wife’s personal account.
“Of course we had a scuffle and I asked her to transfer the money back to the right account but she said she had no money. I asked her for a breakdown of how she had used the millions of shillings, but she just could not provide an explanation,” he said.
Then one day, he adds, he used the desktop version of WhatAsapp to read his wife’s conversations with the man.
“The conversations confirmed my fears. She had gradually transferred Sh11.8 million to him, and they were building a hotel in Rwanda. The tone of the conversation indicated that the man feared that after the audit, I would discover the secret transfer of the money. I e-mailed the conversation to myself and reported the matter to the police.
“When the police did not act, I did not give up. My friend suggested that I hire a private investigator (PI), and linked me up with one. I recovered my lorries, which had been stolen and driven to Uganda,” he said.
The PI further unearthed that Mr Mbuthia’s wife and her lover had bought plots in Joska, Kamulu, Nanyuki and Tassia Estate in Nairobi. Mr Mbuthia adds that the PI also discovered that his wife wished him dead.
“I paid the PI’s company Sh400,000 for the services and a Sh300,000 facilitation fee. From all the evidence presented to me, I was able to get a divorce, hire a lawyer, and now I am in the process of recovering all my property,” he says.
Mr Mbuthia is just one of the many Kenyans who have sought the services of private investigators to help them get justice, conduct background checks on potential business partners, do due diligence checks and forensic investigations, among other services.
Lately, according to security analyst Edward Okoth, more Kenyans are hiring private investigators to conduct home surveillance, infidelity checks, and also to install secret cameras and voice recorders in their cars, homes and offices.
Criminologist Kiyo Ng’ang’a says PIs deal mostly with marital infidelity and private companies’ internal investigations.
“Most of the cases PIs deal with are not criminal acts/crimes, but fall under civil laws, such as infidelity cases that could lead to divorce. The investigators also assist with evidence gathering for ongoing civil cases and internal investigations.
“It is inaccurate to say that failure by the NPS or DCI is leading people to run to PIs. I believe it is just a gap in criminal law, which leaves the civil sector with no investigative services,” he added.
Ms Jane Mugo, a private investigator and CEO of Trimo Security, says Kenyans seek the services of PI mostly because the police have too many cases to handle, and with limited resources.
“Numerous cases are reported to police stations but due to lack of facilities such as vehicles to conduct investigations as well as time, Kenyans turn to private investigators,” Ms Mugo said.
Section 25 of the Private Security (General) Regulations, 2019, states that, with the approval of the National Security Council, the Inspector-General of Police or the Cabinet Secretary may require a private security service provider to cooperate with in order to maintain law and order, prevent or mitigate a national disaster, and share security information, among others.
She said some public prosecutors are good at their work, but are often frustrated by shoddy investigations, forcing them to withdraw from the cases. “This leads many Kenyans to seek the services of PIs,” she added.
Ms Mugo, a former police officer, says PIs work with lawyers, pathologists and IT experts, depending on the nature of the investigation.
Ms Mugo says she has investigated almost every form of crime; from murders to fraud, to contraband to illegal exportation, corruption, asset recovery and others.
“I love the job, and I love my suspects too, and the thrill of the chase. It hardens me and makes me sensitive to my surroundings” she said.
Ms Mugo who started the undercover trade in 2008, says her company charges between Sh50,000 and Sh500,000, depending on what is being investigated, the scope of investigation, the parties involved and the costs incurred by her firm.
She works with different people during investigations, depending on the nature of crime or probe. They include lawyers, company executives, banks, pathologists, car tracking companies and IT experts among others.
“Sometimes finding information is hard, but depending on each case, you have to devise mechanisms of locating them. Sometimes it is a matter of life and death,” she says.
Ms Mugo who once worked as a police officer at the then Criminal Investigations Department (CID) says she receives numerous threats from those culpable of crimes, but she has learnt to manage them through her own personal safety steps.
So how do clients react when they finally get to know the truth? Ms Mugo says the most common reaction is usually shock and that is why she hired a few counsellors.
Another Private Investigator, Raphael Daudi Musau who works at Hawk Eye says the most credible PIs are retired members of the disciplined forces.
“I am a fingerprints expert myself and I worked at the DCI for years. However, I have a team of former DCI specialists working here,” he said.
Other Private investigation agencies in Kenya include; Third Eye Private Investigators, Silver Age and many others. They are required all to be registered as stipulated by Section 28 Private Security Regulation Act which states, “A person shall not engage in the provision of private security services or offer private security services in Kenya at a fee unless that person is licensed by the Authority,”
Some of the PI companies charge between Sh50,000 and Sh1 million, depending on their services.
Mr Kiyo Ng’ang’a says Kenya recognises Private Security Practitioners unlike in the past.
“People viewed them as snoopers but we have created systems for them to come out formally and legally,” he says adding that in courts, they offer their services as research for the parties to the cases.
The Private Security Regulatory Authority regulates Private Investigators.
For one to practice in Kenya, one must undergo vetting by a commission comprising officials of the Kenya Police Service , the Administration Police Service, the National Intelligence Service (NIS) and Directorate of Criminal Investigations.
The vetting comprises tests to establish if the person understands the law, to check if they have any criminal records and their competency in investigation.
“They must have clearance from the NIS, have a security background and prove that they are familiar with the Criminal Procedure Code, the Penal Code and other laws,” Criminologist Kiyo Nganga said.
They are then registered and licensed by the regulating body as per Section 21 of the Private Security Regulatory Act.