More special teams formed to nab bank robbers

The SBI branch at Kallipalayam in Tiruppur where the burglary took place on the night of February 22.

The SBI branch at Kallipalayam in Tiruppur where the burglary took place on the night of February 22.  

Burglars seem to have good knowledge of the security system and experience in breaking into banks, says SP

More special teams have been formed to crack the burglary at State Bank of India’s branch at Kallipalayam near Palladam in Tiruppur district on the night of February 22. Superintendent of Police Disha Mittal said on Wednesday that the number of special teams formed to nab the accused was increased to 11. Initially, four teams were formed. These were increased to six susbequently, and now to 11.

Ms. Mittal said the heist seemed to have been executed in a “professional” and “systematic” manner. “It was done by someone who has good knowledge of banking, security, and someone who has done this many times [before],” she told The Hindu.

The accused entered the premises on the night of February 22 through a window near the back entrance of the bank. Prior to the heist, the burglars disconnected the burglar alarms, CCTV cameras, telephone lines and even the computer servers, Ms. Mittal said. So clandestine was their entry into the bank that the police personnel who were on night rounds were unable to detect any suspicious activities that night, Ms. Mittal said. Besides, the spot through which the burglars gained entry into the bank had no access road that the police could have covered in the routine patrol.

As on Wednesday, the worth of cash stolen was pegged at ₹18,97,000. The accused had opened 31 out of 114 lockers, for which the stolen jewellery was estimated to be at least 230 sovereigns, based on inputs from the locker customers.

However, K.R. Arul, Inspector at Kamanaickenpalayam police station where the case has been registered, said that the estimates are not final as the veracity of the customers' claims could not be confirmed.

No security

Following a similar break-in attempt at the same branch, through the same access point, in October 2019, the bank had transferred a security guard from its Dharapuram branch. However, the guard was deployed at the branch only for a month and was transferred back to the Dharapuram branch. leaving the Kallipalayam branch with no security guards for nearly three months, preliminary police investigations revealed.

Deputy Inspector General of Police (Coimbatore range) G. Karthikeyan and Inspector General of Police (West Zone) K. Periaiah visited the bank on Tuesday. They are closely monitoring the case and are being regularly updated on the developments in the case, Ms. Mittal said.

Although it is estimated that at least four persons were involved in this heist, the SP said that it is “too early” to comment on the identities and whereabouts of the accused.

SBI statement

Two days after the break-in was reported, SBI issued a statement on Wednesday evening saying that three locker cabinets were “partially broken open by the intruders” and that the gold jewellery pledged with the bank were not “tampered with”.

“After this incident, we have been individually contacting the customers whose lockers are affected and the process of verification of the contents of the lockers has commenced (sic),” the statement said. Customers may contact V. Kanagaraj from the SBI Regional Business Office in Tiruppur at 94433 12088 for clarifications, the statement said.

Sources with the SBI said that 31 lockers in the three locker cabinets were damaged. As on Wednesday, 13 lockers were verified with customers and 17 are yet to be verified, with one locker found to be vacant. The Kallipalayam branch was categorised as a “normal risk” branch, due to which there were no full-time security guards, according to sources. With the systems having been restored on Wednesday, regular business transactions are expected to resume on Thursday, the sources said.

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Printable version | Jul 11, 2020 8:22:12 AM |

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