In a space of 10 minutes, the miscreants had decamped with gold jewellery worth Rs 20 crore.(REUTERS Photo?Representative use)
In a space of 10 minutes, the miscreants had decamped with gold jewellery worth Rs 20 crore.(REUTERS Photo?Representative use)

Odisha’s Rs 20 crore gold heist was an inside job, cops unearth plot

Four armed men wearing masks and helmets had robbed the Nayasarak branch office of the IIFL Finance on November 19.
By Debabrata Mohanty | Edited by Abhinav Sahay | Hindustan Times, Bhubaneswar
UPDATED ON NOV 24, 2020 09:24 PM IST

The fear of getting caught in the audit in a case of embezzlement may have led to the heist of 39.5 kg of gold jewellery and Rs 4 lakh cash from branch of a non-banking financial company in Cuttack town last week, Odisha police said on Tuesday, after claiming to have cracked the daylight heist.

Police said 7 persons have been detained in the case and would eventually be arrested formally.

Four armed men wearing masks and helmets had entered the Nayasarak branch office of the IIFL Finance, an NBFC, at around 9.50am on November 19, threatening the lone unarmed security guard at gunpoint. In a space of 10 minutes, the miscreants decamped with gold jewellery worth Rs 20 crore that were mortgaged by hundreds of IIFL customers for various loans. The robbers had locked the bank staff in the office toilet before they committed the robbery.

Bhubaneswar-Cuttack commissioner of police Sudhansu Sarangi said the robbery was planned by one Lala Amrit Ray, who worked in the Nayasarak branch of IIFL for the last 5 years.

“During a recent audit by IIFL officials, Ray’s role in embezzlement of some gold jewellery was revealed. But the company was unaware of his criminal antecedents. He was involved in many irregularities in the past and managed to sweep those under the carpet by winning over the past auditors. When a new auditor joined and raised the issue of irregularities, Ray got worried and staged the heist to mask the irregularities,” said Sarangi.

Ray’s brother Lala Ranjan Ray, who worked in another gold-leasing firm, too, was arrested for embezzlement of 1 kg gold in his company. Ray, who was involved in that case, could not be arrested then as he had secured a bail from the high court.

Police said Ray took help of his childhood friend Bapu alias Ranjan Behera of Biswanathpur village in Cuttack district. On Thursday, Ranjan Behera got four others -- Rajakishore Sahu, Biju alias Prakash Sahu, Bapi alias Santosh Bhoi and Padia alias Pradipta Behera -- from his village to arrive at the bank soon after it opened.

“The insider role as well the negligence in security was too glaring. The alarm was not working for the past several months and the CCTV camera had gone kaput. The regular guard with a gun was not present. Even something as basic as opening the digital locker through OTP mechanism was also not being followed by the company,” said Sarangi.

On the day of the robbery, the masked miscreants took away mobile phones of the employees and locked them in a room in order to prevent them from informing police.

The police commissioner said no video footage was available with the branch’s head office in Mumbai as the CCTV in Cuttack branch was defunct. “No steps were taken to repair the alarm system which would have cost them less than Rs 200 to 300. So many lapses did take investigators by surprise. It was a blind case. Although we knew it was a well-planned bank robbery, we did not have any clue,” said Sarangi.

Police have recovered around 2 kgs of gold ornaments and further investigations were on.

“We are still not sure how much gold was looted, though the company in its FIR claimed a heist of 39.5 kg of gold. We have come to know that some of the stolen gold has been kept in another gold leasing company. Only after proper audits, we will be in a position to ascertain how much gold ornaments were actually looted. When an employee of the organization is involved in the case, it is difficult to reveal how much gold was mortgaged. There could be many ghost loanees,” said the commissioner.

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