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Wednesday, Aug 21, 2019

Mumbai bank heist: 3 thieves turned backs to camera, gave fake documents to get rented shop

Mumbai police also found jute bags with soil near Juinagar railway station, 200m from the bank

mumbai Updated: Nov 16, 2017 11:55 IST
Debasish Panigrahi and Pranab Jyoti Bhuyan
Debasish Panigrahi and Pranab Jyoti Bhuyan
Hindustan Times
The tunnel ended at the Bank of Baroda’s Sanpada branch.
The tunnel ended at the Bank of Baroda’s Sanpada branch.(Bachchan Kumar/ HT)

A CCTV camera has recorded three suspects, believed to have coordinated the sensational robbery at a bank in Sanpada, which came to light on Monday. Footage from the camera, installed outside the bank, features the men leaving the grocery store two shops away around 7 am on Saturday.

Sources in the Navi Mumbai police said the discovery has cemented their theory that the heist was planned for Friday night as the bank would be shut for the next two days. “They planned it carefully so they had enough time to escape,” sources said.

The footage, however, features the men with their backs turned to the camera, which makes it hard to establish their identities. “It seems that they knew the exact position of the camera and took care not to turn their faces even once,” said sources.

Police also found jute bags with soil near Juinagar railway station, 200m from the bank.

Officers said the soil was the same as that dug out to create the tunnel. “The condition of the bags indicates that they have been there since last monsoon. It is obvious that the crime was planned and executed over months,” said an investigating officer.

Cops found that the Aadhaar card and other personal documents, which prime suspect Gena Bachchan Prasad submitted to the landlord while finalising the rent agreement, were fake. “The names on the cards seem to be tampered with. We suspect his photographs were superimposed on stolen identity documents,” sources added.

Prasad’s mobile phone was last traced to Nashik on Sunday.

The landlord told police that Prasad paid him Rs25,000 a month in cash. This indicates that he wanted to conceal his identity as any wire or cheque transaction would have helped identify him, sources said.

Police said Prasad and the two shop attendants never led the landlord or their neighbours to suspect anything amiss. “They always paid the rent on time and kept to themselves,” sources said.

The landlord said their behaviour was why he did not object to their proposal to renovate the store three months ago. “On the pretext of building a store room, the suspects brought several sheets of plywood and created a partition extending up to the roof. They kept the door locked at all times,” sources said.They added that two tiles behind the door were removed so the tunnel could be dug. Police found layers of plywood sheets covering the entry-point of the tunnel.

While police have not yet traced the gang, they suspect they could be from Jharkhand or Rajasthan. A police team allegedly reached Jharkhand on Wednesday.

“Specialised gangs from these states, who have expertise in such tunnel heists, usually use such a modus operandi,” sources said. “We suspect that the accused were security guards who worked in the city, but were not locals,” said Nitin Kasaudikar, assistant commissioner of police (crime).

The police are checking if some customers ,who had lockers in the bank, or some employees were hand-in-glove with the culprits. “It is impossible for anyone to dig a tunnel and get into the locker room without any prior knowledge of the bank. No one, except for employees or customers, can enter this room” said an investigating officer.

First Published: Nov 16, 2017 11:49 IST

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