Robbers hold officials at gunpoint before fleeing with Rs. 18 lakh

A gang of armed robbers struck at the Bank of Baroda Gen-Next branch on the bustling Rajiv Gandhi Salai, Perungudi, on Monday afternoon and fled with cash totalling nearly Rs. 18 lakh after holding bank officials and customers at gunpoint.

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Police sources said the daring robbery began around 1.45 p.m. on the first floor of the branch on the IT Highway Road. “Four men suspected to be North Indians entered the bank; two of them were carrying handguns. They threatened the cashier at gunpoint and took the collection amount for the day which was close to Rs. 18 lakh. They locked the door from outside and fled. Rest of the cash and jewellery in the locker has been untouched,” said Additional Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) P. Thamarai Kannan.

The robbery took place when the branch — which was opened in 2007 — was operating with nine officials and had more than 20 customers. Branch Manager Balaji, who was held at gunpoint, told investigators that they spoke Hindi and a little of Tamil. “The gang threatened the officials and customers and bundled them into a room. They made the victims switch off their mobile phones and pocketed the high-end handsets and threw away the rest,” said an investigating officer.

The officer added that two members of the gang then threatened cashier Anandan, snatched the money from him and fled after locking the main door of the branch. “A dabbawala, a teenager, who had come with lunch for a bank employee had a mobile phone which the suspects failed to notice. After the gang left, a bank official called Bena Ram, the owner of the building, from the phone around 2.20 p.m. and informed him about the incident,” the officer said.

Bena Ram rushed in and opened the door and let out all those trapped inside. The bank officials soon alerted the police, sources added.

Dharmiah (60), the watchman of the Bank of Baroda ATM below the branch, shopkeepers in the area and passersby on the busy IT corridor did not notice anything unusual, and the gangsters got away in a car.

Senior police officials including Commissioner of Police J. K. Tripathy came to the branch and carried out investigations. A sniffer dog ran upto the Perungudi bus terminus. Fingers print and scientific experts inspected the branch for a few hours. Lack of CCTV cameras at the branch has come as a major hurdle for police investigations. However, CCTV footage from the neighbouring Union Bank of India branch is being inspected by the police.

Thoraipakkam police have registered a case following a complaint lodged by Mr Balaji. Special teams have been formed to probe the armed robbery and vehicle checks are under way in the city to nab the gang.