₹20 crore Delhi jewellery heist: How police traced, arrested the suspects
A group of burglars on Sunday night pulled off a dramatic heist of over ₹20 crore on Umrao Singh Jewellers in Jangpura
A 31-year-old man broke into a jewellery store in Jangpura late on Sunday, burgled it of gold and diamond ornaments worth upwards of ₹20 crore, hid inside the shop for 15 hours, and then fled on Monday evening, Delhi Police said on Friday, after the suspect was arrested from a village in Chhattisgarh.
The police also recovered 18.5kg gold and diamond jewellery and ₹12.5 lakh cash from the suspect, Lokesh Srivas, and appeared to have cracked an audacious burglary on Umrao Singh Jewellers in Bhogal that left the store owners befuddled and investigators scrounging for clues during the initial leg of the probe.
Srivas appeared to have committed the burglary, said police, who added that they are still trying to ascertain if an insider was involved in helping him plan the theft.
“So far, we have not found the role of an insider, but an investigation is underway,” he said.
Delhi deputy commissioner of police (south-east) Rajesh Deo said that Srivas, who is a resident of Kabirdham district in Chhattisgarh, was involved in several thefts in his home state.
According to police, the burglar broke into the store minutes before midnight on Sunday by accessing the terrace from an adjoining building. He then broke in by opening a windowpane on the terrace, then disabled the CCTV cameras and alarm systems. He then made his way down to the ground floor, where the shop and its storeroom were located. There, he bored a hole in the strongroom’s only concrete wall and wiped it clean.
He hid inside the shop for much of Monday – when the shop was closed – and left in the evening, using the same route he entered from.
Police said their first clue was when CCTV footage from cameras in the neighbourhood showed a person carrying a backpack entering the building adjacent to the jewellery store around 9.45pm on September 24. Both the buildings share the same staircase.
The footage also revealed that the person left the building on Monday evening.
“The person was a suspect at the time, but we had no clue about his identity,” said a senior police officer.
Their next clue came on Thursday morning when the south-east district police received information from Chhattisgarh Police that they arrested a man, identified as Lokesh Rao, who told them that one of his associates, Srivas, “had committed a big crime in Delhi”.
“We got hold of a photograph of Srivas and it matched with the appearance of the suspect in the CCTV footage,” Deo said.
Using technical surveillance, Delhi Police found out that Srivas went to Kashmere Gate bus stand to leave the city on September 25 around 9pm. “We found CCTV footage of him buying the bus ticket to Chhattisgarh. A team of Delhi Police then took the Friday morning flight and reached Chhattisgarh around 11am,” a police officer said.
Ajay Yadav, inspector general of police (Bilaspur Range), said the Bilaspur district police were already looking for Srivas and his associates for their role in a series of thefts.
Investigators had some information about Srivas’s presence at Kawardha town in Kabirdham district, added Yadav.
“We conducted a raid there on Wednesday and arrested Srivas’s aide, Shiva Chandravanshi, along with ornaments worth around ₹23 lakh. But by the time police could reach, Srivas managed to escape by jumping from the window of the house,” he said.
Meanwhile, however, the police forces of both states exchanged information on the Jangpura theft.
Later, in a joint operation, police teams from both the states tracked Srivas down to a house in Smritinagar area of Durg district early on Saturday morning.
“We recovered 18.5kg gold and diamond jewellery and ₹12.5 lakh cash from him,” Yadav added. Deo said the recovered gold was estimated to be worth upwards of ₹20 crore belonged to the jewellery store in Delhi, but added that this was yet to be definitely ascertained.
Bilaspur district superintendent of police Santosh Singh said Srivas will be sent to judicial custody.
“From there, the Delhi Police will take him on production remand,” he said.
“The suspect is a part of a larger group that pulled off the burglary in Delhi. We’ll uncover more details about the heist after his custodial interrogation,” said Singh.
“The role of an insider can be ascertained only after their interrogation,” Deo said.
“Further investigation is in progress,” he added.