Six men robbed an unguarded finance-company office here of 10-kilogram gold worth Rs 3 crore and Rs 30,000 cash on Monday.
At 12.25pm, two employees — assistant branch head Naresh Kumar (27) and Ankit Gupta (26) — besides NRI (non-resident Indian) customer Ram Lal (40) of Parasrampur village, were at Manappuram Finance Company’s Rama Mandi branch on the Hoshiarpur highway when the robbers came in and took them hostage.
“Two men came in posing as customers and Gupta locked the scissor gate behind them as is practice,” Kumar recalled. “When I took them to my cabin, another four men knocked at the gate, and as soon and Gupta opened it, they pointed a gun and a knife at him and the customer. The two men in my cabin pounced on me for locker keys.”
He says they took him to the strong room and forced him to open it at knifepoint. “They filled their two black bags with the ornaments and the money and pushed the three of us into the washroom, which they couldn’t close because it didn’t have a bolt on the outside. They also took away our mobile phones,” said the assistant branch head. Asked why he had not pressed the alarm button in the washroom, he said: “I was in shock. I called up police soon after getting out.”
The robbers were out by 12.40pm. NRI customer Ram Lal says robbers were Hindi-speaking and aged between 20 and 25. “Only one of them had his face covered. He wore a cap,” he said. Company cleaner Reeta, who was at a nearby bank for personal work, returned at 1.30pm to find the branch robbed.
The security-camera footage shows that the robbers came in on two motorcycles and a Honda Activa scooter, and two of them held black bags. The branch has three cameras, all controlled from the headquarters in Kerala. Police suspect it to be an insider’s job. The company employees are under interrogation.
Cops react in 40 minutes
Dismissing the heist at as “minor theft”, police took no notice of it for 40 minutes. They ignored the call from company’s assistant branch head Naresh Kumar and gave the robbers enough time to get away. The Nangal Shama police post is just a kilometre from the spot.
Finally, the media had to call up senior officials to tell them how big it was. Around 1.30pm, assistant sub-inspector (ASI) Sewa Singh and two other cops arrived on the scene. Then they called their boss, Rama Mandi station house officer (SHO) Naresh Kumar Joshi.
After 15 minutes, additional deputy commissioners of police Jasvir Singh (1) and Vivek S Soni (crime), assistant commissioners of police DD Sharma (central), Karanveer Singh (Model Town), and Harjinder Singh (crime), and CIA (crime investigation agency) teams rushed in.
“After we look at the footage, we’ll have a clear picture,” said deputy commissioner of police (DCP) Harjit Singh. “We are recording the statements of the company employees and a customer. The employees haven’t given us account of the missing gold. What they claim might be over the actual amount stored in the branch.”
Similar heists in Punjab’s two other major towns
July 30, 2015, Ludhiana: Six armed robbers took away 14-kilogram gold worth Rs 3 crore, besides Rs 2.5-lakh cash from the Manappuram Finance Company branch on Gill Road. Some of the 12 accused, including a customer with outstanding loan, were arrested.
May 15, 2015, Patiala: Muthoot Fincorp office robbed of 11kg gold worth more than Rs 3 crore. Two woman employees were among six people arrested. It was the biggest heist after the 1987 bank robbery in Ludhiana, in which militants took away Rs 5.7 crore.