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Bank heist under police nose

The manager-in-charge of Canara Bank’s Guthni branch, located opposite the police station, found Rs 55 lakh stolen from an almirah on opening the bank on Monday morning.

The exact time of the robbery could not be ascertained. But police suspect it took place between Saturday evening and Monday morning.

Guthni is located 150km southwest of Patna and 38km southwest of the district headquarters.

Guthni police station-in-charge Ajay Mishra said branch officer Alok Kumar said in the FIR that he found the grill cut on Monday morning and the money stolen. The robbers also tried to cut the safe and the lockers but could not succeed.

Alok Kumar said branch manager Shailesh Kumar was on leave and he was in charge of banking operations.

He immediately alerted the police following which Siwan additional superintendent of police (ASP) Vivekanand rushed to the spot.

On being asked, Alok Kumar said there was no guard posted or closed-circuit television camera installed at the branch.

He said of the Rs 55 lakh kept at the branch, Rs 30 lakh was to be paid to customers and the rest to be deposited in the ATM.

Superintendent of police (SP) Vivek Kumar confirmed that the robbers had used a gas cutter in the operation. Police are investigating the case from all possible angles. “It appears that a well-organised gang was behind the robbery and used gas cutters.

The rear side of the branch is isolated and the thieves took advantage of this. The bank was closed from Saturday evening. The exact date and time of the theft could be ascertained,” the SP said.

In January, 2012, robbers had looted more than Rs 40 lakh from the Teknewas branch of Bank of India in neighbouring Saran district. The police could not crack the case. The modus operandi was similar to that used in Guthni. Gas cutters had been used to open the safe and the locker.

In April, 2013, Rs 1.25 crore was looted from the bank van of Punjab National Bank at Baniapur en route from the bank’s Chhapra main branch to the Lahladpur branch. Last week, Rs 31 lakh was looted from the cash van of United Bank of India on Rewa Ghat bridge on way to Muzaffarpur near the Saran border.

Trader waylaid

A trader on a motorcycle has been robbed of Rs 9 lakh at gunpoint soon after taking the cash out of a bank on a busy road near Bara Jagannath Chowk on Monday afternoon.

Three armed motorcycle-borne criminals, armed with pistols, slowed their vehicle, snatched the moneybag from foodgrain dealer Maheshwar Singh’s assistant Surendra Singh and chose the Darbhanga Road to escape.

Maheshwar, who was riding the motorcycle with Surendra as pillion, has a shop at Bara Jagannath village. They hardly moved 200 yards away from the State Bank of India (SBI) Bazaar Samiti branch when they were waylaid.

Ahiyapur police station house officer Sunil Sharma said Surendra raised an alarm but the fleeing criminals brandished their weapons apparently to dissuade him. The adjacent Gaighat and Katra police stations have been alerted, he said, adding that an FIR has been lodged. The police have also quizzed Maheshwar and Surendra about the identity of the youths.

Soon after the incident, traders of Bara Jagannath Chowk protested the alleged police inaction. North Bihar Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Motial Chaparia expressed concern over deteriorating law and order situation and spurt in robbery and loot. He demanded intensive police patrolling during the banking hours to keep a tab on the criminals looting cash from bank customers.

The police are yet to make any headway in the Rs 31-lakh loot near Rewa Ghat bridge when the cash van of United Bank of India was attacked.