Patna, Feb. 27: Armed criminals today barged into the Pareb branch of Canara Bank in Bihta, barely 40km from the state capital and decamped with cash worth Rs 18.5 lakh within a span of just 10 minutes.
The incident occurred around 3pm, when at least 20 customers and seven officials, including the manager, were inside the bank. According to sources, the bank does not have any closed circuit television (CCTV) camera.
Police have not been able to make any arrest yet.
The cops said the seven robbers had come on four motorcycles. The police added that the bank and the road leading to it remained crowded almost throughout the day.
“The branch is located along a narrow lane in the Pareb area of Bihta in the state capital. The stretch remains crowded almost throughout the day. It is a mystery for the cops as to how the criminals carried out such a dacoity,” an officer at the Bihta police station told The Telegraph.
The police said the criminals overpowered the guard before entering the bank.
“Two of the robbers stood at the gate of the bank, while three others went inside. Two more in the gang were , in the meantime, waiting downstairs. One of the robbers waiting at the main gate had his face partially covered with a towel. The bank officials said they were all middle-aged,” he added.
“The three robbers who went inside first attacked the cashier and beat him up. As those present at the bank panicked, the criminals took out their pistols and asked everyone not to move an inch,” the officer said.
The robbers had a bag, black in colour, with them in which they stashed in their booty.
“They looted Rs 18.5 lakh. We are still trying to find out the exact amount of cash that they decamped with. They took away all the cash that was at the cashier’s counter. They then went straight to the bank manager’s cabin and asked him to give them the keys of the strong room. When he refused, the robbers beat him up as well,” the officer said.
“According to the manager’s statement, he was taken to the strong room and was forcibly made to open the locks. Then they fled with the money,” the officer said, pointing out that the entire incident occurred in just 10 minutes.
“What is surprising that the men fled despite the area being so crowded. Investigations are on at the moment. The involvement of an insider cannot be ruled out. The police are trying to identify the gang involved in the robbery,” the police officer said.
Sources in the Bihta police said the alarm at the bank was pressed only after the criminals fled.
There have been a series of such incidents in the recent past, the last one being on December 21 last year when criminals broke an ATM machine of the Canara Bank’s Fatuha branch and fled with Rs 7.3 lakh.
The criminals had broken through the back door of the bank and headed for the ATM counter.
The Fatuha police have still not been able to make any breakthroughs in the case.