The Telegraph
Tuesday , March 1 , 2011
Since 1st March, 1999
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Matchstick method to loot ATMs
- IAS aspirant, aide in net for theft, police on lookout for four more

Hazaribagh, Feb. 28: The modus operandi Shambhu Agarwal and his aides adopted to loot cash from ATM counters can inspire the plots of many a Bollywood potboiler.

The fact that this 25-year-old youth is a BCom-MBA degree holder who aspires to become an IAS officer makes the story more engaging.

Shambhu, son of a local businessman, who landed in the police net today, confessed that they stole cash from ATMs with the help of matchsticks. The six-member gang operated in Ranchi, Hazaribagh and Calcutta in neighbouring Bengal. One of the gang members, Neeraj Singh, alias Guddu, was arrested on February 9.

According to sources, Shambhu told police that they first used to identify an affluent person in the queue outside the ATM counter. One of them then entered the ATM before the targeted person and fixed a matchstick into the slit from where cash comes out. “As a result, when the man went in, he could not withdraw cash and in most cases, the victims left the ATM in a hurry without cancelling the transaction. Another gang member who would queue up just behind the target would then go in, take out the matchstick and withdraw the money,” said the source. CCTVs installed in the ATM counters failed to detect the crime, as the men carried ATM cards and pretended that they were withdrawing cash, the source added.

Interrogations have revealed that the gang used to pocket anything between Rs 20,000 and Rs 60,000 a day.

Superintendent of police Pankaj Kamboj confirmed the arrests of the two gang members and their matchstick modus operandi. Kamboj further said they were on the lookout for Guddu and the other four — Surat Singh, Patul Kumar, Hakim Khan and Raviraj Kumar Verma alias Raviraj — but Shambhu was never a suspect. “We arrested Guddu on February 9 in connection with a case of withdrawal of cash from an ATM. Investigations led us to Shambhu and only after arresting him, we came to learn that all of them belonged to the same gang,” Kamboj said.

Shambhu has also admitted that he, along with Guddu and Raviraj, had applied the same matchstick technique to steal cash from an ATM in Calcutta. But an SMS alert about the transaction alerted the victim, who recognised the trio. “But I paid Rs 5,000 to that man after which the matter was sorted out,” Shambhu reportedly told police.

Police said besides providing accommodation to all the culprits at his rented house in Calcutta, Shambhu was also involved in other illegal activities. “We have found a recent transaction of Rs 6.90 lakh in the name of Shambhu’s bank account,” Singh said.

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