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Since 1st March, 1999
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Lakhs looted from bank and pockets
- Thieves flee, cops squabble & lose time

Durgapur, June 24: A dozen armed men snatched Rs 12 lakh from customers at a State Bank of India branch on the outskirts of Durgapur and took away Rs 33 lakh more from its vault after locking up some of the employees in a toilet.

As the robbers fled on motorcycles, police from Kanksa, Coke Oven and New Township police stations arrived and began arguing over who should accept the FIR.

It took almost two hours to conclude that the Muchipara branch of the SBI was in the Kanksa police station area.

Senior police officers, including Burdwan police chief Peeyush Pandey, later arrived to supervise the investigation.

Around 1pm, 12 youths assembled in front of the bank on the first floor of Muchipara Market Complex, about 180km from Calcutta. While two stood guard outside, the 10 walked inside posing as customers.

The two outside struck a casual conversation with the two rifle-wielding police constables guarding the bank and then pressed revolvers to their temples.

Two entered the bank manager’s chamber near the vault as their comrades herded 14 employees and around 15 customers into the toilet and a small room where files were stacked. Inside, they were made to kneel on the floor with their hands over their eyes and their phones were taken away.

“The robbers held a revolver to my temple and a dagger to my throat and asked me to hand over the vault keys. I was too scared to reach for the alarm button. I told them the keys were with the accountant, sitting next to my chamber,” said branch manager T.K. Das.

A blade pressing against his Adam’s apple, accountant Arup Chowdhury unlocked the vault.

“I tried to resist slightly and they pressed the dagger,” said Chowdhury, whose gash was treated at the Durgapur Subdivisional Hospital.

“They stuffed the cash in three leather bags,” Chowdhury added.

The goons snatched cash, ornaments and watches from the customers and walked to their motorcycles.

Constables Abul Hossain and Debakinandan Kar were robbed of their 10 bullets, but their rifles were left behind.

Trader Rajiv Kumar, who had gone to the bank with Rs 1 lakh to be sent to his son, a student in Bangalore, was in shock. “It was very scary,” he said. “They were speaking in Hindi. They pointed a revolver at me and snatched the money.”

The police suspect the hand of a Jharkhand gang in the heist. “All police stations bordering Jharkhand have been alerted,” superintendent Pandey said.

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