Rs 20 crore gold theft from Odisha was an inside job, cops unearth a plot
Fear of being caught in the audit in an embezzlement case may have led to the theft of 39.5 kg of gold jewelry and 4 lakh of cash from the branch of a non-bank finance company in the town of Cuttack last week, Odisha police said Tuesday. , after claiming to have solved the robbery in daylight.
Police said 7 people have been detained in the case and that they would eventually be formally arrested.
Four armed men wearing masks and helmets had entered the Nayasarak branch of IIFL Finance, an NBFC, around 9:50 am on November 19, threatening the only unarmed security guard at gunpoint. In a space of 10 minutes, the criminals left with gold jewelry worth Rs 20 million that was mortgaged by hundreds of IIFL clients for various loans. The robbers had locked bank staff in the office bathroom before they committed the robbery.
Bhubaneswar-Cuttack Police Commissioner Sudhansu Sarangi said the robbery was planned by one Lala Amrit Ray, who worked at the IIFL’s Nayasarak branch for the past 5 years.
“During a recent audit by IIFL officials, Ray’s role in embezzling some gold jewelry was revealed. But the company was unaware of his criminal record. He was involved in many wrongdoings in the past and managed to sweep them under the rug by winning over previous auditors. When a new auditor joined in and raised the issue of wrongdoing, Ray became concerned and organized the robbery to mask wrongdoing, ”Sarangi said.
Ray’s brother, Lala Ranjan Ray, who also worked in another gold leasing company, was arrested for embezzling 1 kg of gold at his company. Ray, who was involved in that case, could not be arrested at the time because he had obtained a bond from the superior court.
Police said Ray turned to his childhood friend Bapu, alias Ranjan Behera, from Biswanathpur village in Cuttack district for help. On Thursday, Ranjan Behera arranged for four others, Rajakishore Sahu, Biju alias Prakash Sahu, Bapi alias Santosh Bhoi and Padia alias Pradipta Behera, to arrive at the bank shortly after its opening.
“The role of insider information and negligence in security was too obvious. The alarm had not worked for the past few months and the CCTV camera had been turned off. The regular guard with a pistol was not present. Even something as basic as opening the digital locker through the OTP mechanism was not being followed by the company either, ”Sarangi said.
On the day of the robbery, masked criminals took employees’ mobile phones and locked them in a room to prevent them from reporting to the police.
The police commissioner said there were no video footage available with the Mumbai branch headquarters as the CCTV at the Cuttack branch had disappeared. “No steps were taken to repair the alarm system, which would have cost them less than 200 to 300 rupees. So many failures took researchers by surprise. It was a blind case. Even though we knew it was a well-planned bank robbery, we had no idea, ”Sarangi said.
The police have recovered around 2 kg of gold ornaments and further investigations are underway.
“We are still not sure how much gold was looted, although the company in its FIR claimed a robbery of 39.5 kg of gold. We have come to learn that some of the stolen gold has been kept at another gold leasing company. Only after proper audits will we be in a position to determine how many gold ornaments were actually looted. When an employee of the organization is involved in the case, it is difficult to reveal how much gold was mortgaged. There could be a lot of phantom loans, ”said the commissioner.