Mumbai: The missing links of the Bank of Baroda tunnel burglary are falling in place with the arrest of 11 accused, some of whom are serial offenders. They had plagiarised the idea from a similar theft at the Punjab National Bank in Haryana.
While eight of the accused were arrested from Mumbai, two others were held from West Bengal and UP, respectively. A jeweller, to whom the accused sold the stolen valuables, was arrested from Malegaon. The police have recovered 5.5 kg of the 11 kg gold stolen from the 30 lockers of the bank.
The mastermind, Hajid Ali Subjar Ali Mirza Baig (45), alias Abbu alias Langda, who was out on bail, had foreknowledge about the Haryana heist. He studied YouTube videos of the theft and meticulously planned the Bank of Baroda burglary. A couple of lakhs were spent on the preparation, a police officer said.
The accused were all members of an inter-state gang and were instructed by Baig to use Chinese made walkie-talkies to communicate during the heist. Also, they had used multiple excavation devices to dig the tunnel to the bank strong room. These included a hammer machine, a driller, a grinder, cutting machines, screw drivers, hacksaw blades and other instruments.
Four cars – including a Maruti Ertiga, a Mahindra XUV and a Maruti Swift — were seized from the accused. The police are now considering booking some of them under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act. Four more are still absconding. On November 10, late in the evening, the gang entered the ‘strong room,’ of the bank branch at Juinagar, Sanpada, through the tunnel. They broke open the lockers and escaped with cash and ornaments valued at over Rs 3 crore.
According to the police, one Gona Bachchan Prasad from Rajasthan had rented a grocery shop in the vicinity of the bank, from where the tunnel was dug. The 11th accused, identified as Mehrunisa Sayyed (45), Baig’s sister, was arrested from a dargah in Pune, where she was hiding with 2.5 kg gold worth Rs 70 lakh.
Following Baig’s arrest, she fled Govandi. She was later arrested with the help of her daughter and Tamil Nadu-based son-in-law, who helped the police locate her. According to the police, Baig is one of the top five criminals in the State with around 150 cases of theft registered against him. After he was freed on bail in 2015, he committed 100 more thefts. Every week, Baig would travel to places like Akola, Pune, Ahmedabad and Surat by car to commit thefts.
Navi Mumbai police commissioner Hemant Nagrale headed the investigation and was assisted by the Joint Police Commissioner Prashant Borude. The police took help and inputs from the Mumbai crime branch and toll plazas to crack the high profile case. The arrest of the jeweller Rajendra Jagannath Wagh proved to be the breakthrough. He gave cops the details and description of the thieves.