The crime branch arrested four men who had been stealing diamonds from high-security bank lockers in the Zaveri Bazaar area over the last three years. The thieves used such a unique modus operandi that it took the police four painstaking months, pretending to be diamond traders and realty brokers, to nab them.
Joint commissioner of police, crime, Himanshu Roy, said diamonds worth more than Rs 4.4 crore were recovered. The kingpin was identified as Ajay Mehta, 48, a diamond trader from Goregaon (E), his employee Chandrasen Berde, 49, friend Shamshuddin Azmi, 47, a realty broker from Bandra (E), and master locksmith from Bhayandar (E), Farid Hasmi, 47. Farid was paid Rs 5,000 for each duplicate key.
According to Roy, in April 2010, diamond merchant Mehul Doshi complained to the DB Marg police about 400 carats of diamonds worth Rs. 1.6 crore missing from his locker at the Bank Of India’s (BOI) Opera House branch.
The DB Marg police began by questioning the bank staff. Every locker has two keys, one with the bank and the other with the customer. The investigation drew a blank. The Unit II crime branch, had, by then, started a parallel probe.
Roy said the crime branch began a massive exercise of analysing ledger records of customers who had frequented the locker room in the past three years. “We analysed the entry/exit pattern of 36,000 visitors before zeroing in on the suspects,” Roy said.
Once the suspects were identified, the sleuths, camouflaged as diamond traders, realty brokers, bank officials, etc, opened communication channels with them. Roy said the police plan succeeded and the four were rounded up.
Following the arrest, Mehta took the sleuths to his ancestral home in Valsad (Gujarat) from where diamonds worth Rs 4.4 crore was recovered. The stolen diamonds were not sold. “Every diamond bears a mark and its cut and colour are like a fingerprint. So, the chances of getting caught are high if one tries to push them too soon,” Roy added.
Interestingly, apart from the 400 carats of diamonds (worth Rs 1.6 crore), there was no complaint about the other diamonds in police custody.
The police will write to the Reserve Bank of India for modifications in the security policy of lockers.