In a daring robbery, a group of 10 armed men snatched a cash van containing `1.34 crore after attacking its five occupants with chilli powder near Sector 85 on Monday morning.
The accused used an SUV, which was snatched from Sector 79 on March 4, to commit the crime. Both the emptied cash van and SUV were later found abandoned. The accused also stole the memory card of the CCTV camera and GPS system installed in the cash van, besides damaging their wires.
Police said the cash van with its five occupants — Karamjit Singh (driver), Gurdeep and Gurmeet (security guards), Amrik Singh (cash officer) and Kuldeep Singh (helper) — left the Axis Bank branch in Sector 34, Chandigarh, on Monday morning to deposit the cash in Rajpura.
As the van reached near Sector 85, SAS Nagar, around 8:40am, a Toyota Fortuner intercepted it.
Helper Kuldeep Singh said as soon as their vehicle was intercepted, the van driver tried to flee by reversing the van, but rammed it into the sidewalk.
Meanwhile, 10 men got out of the SUV, and one of them attacked the van’s windshield with an axe and threw chilli powder at the driver. Training their guns at the van, the accused threw chilli powder at the rest of the van occupants, rendering them disabled, and demanded the keys of the van’s locker.
Kuldeep, who had the locker keys, said when he resisted, the accused dragged all of them out of the van and thrashed them up. They then drove away in the cash van and the SUV, while taking along the security guards’ weapons.
He sounded the bank officials, who informed the cops.
Police said they launched a search for the cash van, which with its empty locker trunks was recovered around 2km away at Durali village around 9:15am.
They recovered a hand bag containing chilli powder, some clothes and swimming goggles from the van. Besides, a warranty card of the hand bag, dated October 8, 2011, bearing a name ‘Subash’ was also found.
The locker also bore some gunshot marks, indicating that the accused opened fire to try and open the locker.
Kuldeep explained that they kept an extra set of locker keys in the vehicle for emergency, which the accused seemed to have found and used to open the locker and steal the cash.
The SUV used in the crime was also found abandoned on the road near Sukhan Majra village, around 7km from Durali, at 11am. Police said the accused had set the car seats on fire, which raised smoke and alerted passers-by.
On verifying the details of the car, police learnt that it was the same SUV that was snatched on gunpoint from the dividing road of Sector 79-80 in SAS Nagar on March 4. The accused had installed fake number plates on it.
When contacted, bank manager Rishi said the cash was being transferred as per routine, adding that they reached the spot after learning of the robbery from cash officer Amrik Singh.
SAS Nagar SSP Gurpreet Singh Bhullar said they were investigating the case from various angles and were yet to rule out the involvement of the cash van staff.
Senior police officials along with inspector general Paramjeet Singh Gill, DIG RK Jaiswal and SSP Gurpreet Singh Bhullar inspected the spot.
Not a first
On December 9, 2013, four people, three of who were dressed in Punjab Police uniform, stopped a CMS company van on Pinjore-Siswan road.
The van was going to deposit cash at the ATMs on Baddi-Barotiwala route. They threw chilli powder in the eyes of CMS employees and took away the cash box containing `1.68 crore.
Punjab Police solved the case with the arrest of Virender, Harjit Singh, Harvinder Singh and two Punjab Police cops Harinder Singh and Sukhwinder Singh, from Rupnagar on December 19, 2014. They were handed over to the Panchkula Police who recovered cash and jewellery from them.