Patiala robbery: Two woman employees among six held, gold recovered

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Patiala
  • Updated: May 18, 2015 10:26 IST

Within 24 hours of Punjab’s biggest robbery in 28 years, in which the Muthoot Fincorp office here lost 11-kg gold worth Rs 3 crore, the police claim to have arrested the culprits — six people, including two woman employees and the “co-mastermind” boyfriend of one. Five have decent qualification.

All the mortgaged jewellery stolen on Saturday was recovered on Sunday. The police claim that they solved the case by tracking the WhatsApp messages of the “main plotter” to her boyfriend, a former employee, after the heist. The accused — Gaurav Kumar Singla, a computer applications graduate; Gurpreet Singh “Dimple”, a post graduate in mass communication; Venus Sharma, an MBA (finance) professional;

Navpreet Kaur, MSc in information technology; Khalsa College graduate Sukhwinder Singh; and Robin Rawel, an astrologer doing his business near the local bus stand — are all in their 20s.

The police have claimed that the gang hoped to divide the loot and run away. “Muthoot Fincorp employee Venus Sharma and her boyfriend and former colleague, Gaurav Singla, had been planning this robbery for the past one month,” inspector general of police Paramjit Singh Gill said here, adding: “Both, later, involved other friends. Gurpreet and Sukhwinder even grew a beard for the crime and shaved it off after the robbery to conceal their identity.”

Modus operandi

The IG said two woman employees had been exchanging secret information with the robber on mobile phone since the crime. “On Saturday, the robbers would have struck in the early afternoon, but the insiders, the two woman employees, turned them back, since mechanics had come to service the air-conditioner. Around 4.30 pm, the women gave the strike team the ‘all clear signal,” the officer said.

The police claim to have gathered from the woman employees that they had taken the robbers to the lockers and helped put more than 560 packets of gold into the bags. This was the biggest heist in Punjab after militants took away `5.7 crore from a Ludhiana bank in 1987 in the days of terrorism.

A Muthoot Fincorp spokesperson said the company had cooperated with the Patiala police and was “happy to inform our customers that their pledged gold is in safe custody”. “We are dismayed at the breach of trust by two of our employees, and we condemned their act of utter dishonesty,” reads the company’s press statement.

How they were caught

The robbers had blinded the surveillance cameras outside and inside the company office with black spray, yet the footage recorded a few moments before showed Venus making calls and signals to them.

The call details of Venus and Gaurav suggest that they shared messages on WhatsApp, and another accused called Venus a few seconds before the crime.

The police have arrested all accused from their homes and have recovered two cars, a motorcycle, the getaway Honda Activa scooter, a 0.32-bore pistol, three cartridges and packets of gold ornaments from them.

All the accused were arrested within five hours of the crime.

The accused

Gaurav Kumar Singla, computer applications graduate and a former employee at Muthoot Fincorp.

Venus Sharma, MBA (finance) from Punjabi University, Patiala; Muthoot Fincorp employee, Gaurav’s girlfriend

Gurpreet Singh “Dimple”, postgraduate in mass communication, former Hindi journalist in Patiala

Sukhwinder Singh, a graduate from Khalsa College, Patiala; unemployed

Robin Rawel, an astrologer based in Patiala

Navneet Kaur, MSc (IT) from Khalsa College, Patiala; Muthoot Fincorp employee

The motive

Alleged kingpin Gaurav Singla was under heavy debt after losses in business over the year; and he hoped that crime would pay off his loans

Gurpreet Singh, Robin Rawel, Sukhwinder Singh, Venus Sharma and Navneet Kaur joined Gaurav for the lure of money; Venus is also girlfriend of Gaurav, a former colleague; and Gurpreet and Sukhwinder were unemployed.

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