Seven armed men pulled off a Rs 1-crore loot from a bank’s cash transfer van on Tuesday afternoon near Fatuha, in what seems to be the result of a meticulous plan born out of days of brain wracking by an insider.
The criminals targeted Union Bank of India’s cash van, which allegedly chose to deviate from its set path and took an under-construction road on its way to Jamui.
The cash transfer van was looted near Bhikhua village under Fatuha police station, around 20km from Gandhi Maidan, when the money was being transferred from the bank’s Machuatoli branch in Patna to Jamui, around 250km southeast of the state capital.
The men also picked up a double-barrel gun of one of the two guards on board the cash transfer vehicle of SIS securities. Police said the case would be cracked soon because there was a possibility of involvement of a bank insider, who could have informed the criminals about the location and the route the vehicle was about to take.
One of the guards and the driver of the vehicle have been detained for questioning because according to the police “their versions on the entire episode differed”.
“Four persons were on board the cash van. The driver identified as Munna Choudhary, two security guards Sanjay Tiwary and Raj Kumar and the custodian of the cash identified as Deepak Kumar. The vehicle started from the Machuatoli branch around 10.50am for Jamui. It reached Fatuha in an hour. However, instead of taking the normal route through Didarganj, the vehicle took a detour. The driver decided to enter the under-construction four-lane road that would connect Patna to Bakhtiarpur once completed. The road is dusty and generally remains deserted. Near Bhikhua, a white SUV came from the opposite direction, forcing the driver to slam the brakes,” deputy superintendent of police, Fatuha, Anoj Kumar, told The Telegraph.
The police said once the cash van screeched to a halt, seven men alighted the SUV and surrounded the vehicle.
“According to the four persons who were in the vehicle, the criminals had pistols with them. They forced all of them out and beat up the driver and the custodian with the pistol butts. The security guards said since the criminals were too many, they didn’t retaliate and opened the boot of the vehicle when they ordered them to. There were seven steel trunks in the vehicle, which are generally used in transferring cash. One of the guards had tucked his rifle in an empty trunk when he saw the criminals approaching. The criminals, however, snatched the weapon of the other guard and fled with the trunk, which had the cash. The remaining six were dummy trunks. They must have known which trunk had the money. It could be possible that the guards blurted out fearing attack. The criminals then loaded the trunk on their SUV,” a police officer said.
He added: “It’s a standard operating procedure, police confirmed, on part of banks to keep dummy trunks while transferring huge amounts of cash so that in case of an attack, robbers lose time in getting to the correct trunk.”
|Patna senior superintendent of police Manu Maharaaj inspects the cash transfer vehicle and (right) the trunks inside.
Pictures by Sachin
Though the police denied that the men opened fire, sources said the windscreen of the cash van was broken and the men could have fired to stop it or terrorise the four men.
“We found the looted trunk around 500m from the incident spot. The criminals broke open the lock and took the money with them,” Patna SSP Manu Maharaaj said. He added that during the initial interrogation, the four persons on board the vehicle said they used to take the village route because it was shorter compared to the present one.
“However, on Tuesday, the criminals were literally waiting for them. This means that the criminals were informed in advance about the cash vehicle’s route and there is some insider who is involved in the loot. The men had fled towards Patna and all the police stations in the district have been alerted. The entry and exit points have heavy police presence. We hope to get a breakthrough soon,” Maharaaj said.
Sources said one SUV and some people have been rounded up for interrogations. Sources added that the criminals hailed from Raghopur diara in Vaishali.