At least eleven petrol stations were robbed of over Rwf10 million, combined, in the eight districts of Bugesera, Muhanga, Musanze, Kamonyi, Ngororero, Rubavu, Rutsiro and Karongi.
The robberies were carried out between July and September, during which six computer laptops and eight smartphones were also stolen in the process.
The eight suspects were shown to the media on Thursday, October 8, at Metropolitan Police Headquarters in Remera.
They are identified as Alfred Bikorimana alias Bucura, Jean Eric Byukusenge, Emmanuel Habumuremyi; Marc Ishimwe alias Mike, Aimable Kwibuka alias Hamis, Faustin Muberuka alias Bihehe; Joseph Ndagijimana and Sosthene Ndahimana alias Niyomadago.
Sosthene Ndahimana is the alleged ringleaders and coordinator of the ring.
They are part of the cohort of 14 people belonging to the same gang, who have so far been arrested in separate Police operations against the coordinated robberies.
Ndahimana said that he joined the gang back in April and recalls nine robberies he successfully coordinated at nine different petrol stations.
He narrated that they normally attacked in a group of between four and six people armed with machetes, iron bars, sticks and stones.
“We usually first observed and conducted enough surveillance at the targeted petrol station, and security loopholes are almost similar; there is always one security guard, who is unarmed, and a pump attendant. At around 1 am, we attack as a group from all sides, each of us with a torch, which scares away the security guard," Ndahimana told the media.
He added: "As the security guard is running away, he causes alarm calling for help and the moment the pump attendant comes for the rescue and opens the door, some people are always there to confine him and immediately enter the room where money and other valuables are kept."
Ndagijimana, another suspected robber, confirmed Ndahimana’s narrative, adding that stones would also be thrown at anyone who dared to intervene or come for rescue.
“We all live in different places. Niyomadago (Ndahimana) calls us the day before the attack and pays for our transport fares in case any of us has no money. We all meet up in a certain district by 7 pm, find a lodge to stay in until 1 am when we go to attack, and by morning, we part ways and never talk to each other until there is a new deal.”
Francis Karera is the Business Development Manager of Mount Meru petroleum Rwanda. Their stations in Bugesera and Kamonyi were attacked by the same group.
“Thieves came to one of our stations, destroyed our safe, took all the money and destroyed many things including window glasses. At first, we thought our staff had given a hand in the incident, because we had never heard of such theft anywhere.
We then reported the case to RIB (Rwanda Investigation Bureau).”
Karera added that just a few days after, their other station was robbed and similar robberies reported at petrol stations belonging to other companies; that is when they learned it was a ring of robbers behind it.
Mount Meru petrol station in Kamonyi District was robbed of Rwf1 million on August 23, while the same petrol station branch in Bugesera was robbed of Rwf900,000 and four handsets in the night of August 17.
On September 22, the gang allegedly attacked and robbed Sante Comfortable Petrol Station in Musanze District of over Rwf2 million, a computer laptop and three handsets.
They had earlier on August 29, robbed Hashi Energy Petrol Station also in Musanze of Rwf600,000 and three computers.
Two similar robberies occurred in Muhanga District; on September 11, at Hass Petroleum Petrol station where Rwf2.5 million were stolen and earlier on September 3, at SP petrol station where thieves stole Rwf6,500,000.
RNP spokesperson, CP John Bosco Kabera said the police will never tire from protecting the people and business from such dangerous people who decide to make money from criminal acts.
“These are young people, who could learn new skills or do something better... they should not be in these serious crimes. If they are convicted in court, the repercussions of this crime will not be worth it, at all. People should learn from such cases and choose legal paths of making money,” CP Kabera.
Article 170 in the new penal code states that "any person, who carries out theft with a weapon, commits armed robbery."
If convicted for armed robbery committed by more than one person or a group, the penalty is imprisonment for a term of not less than fifteen (15) years and not more than twenty (20) years and a fine of not less than Rwf5 million and not more than Rwf7 million.