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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Hard Currency in Transit and a big heist at Sao Paulo, Brazil...

Sathuvachari, a municipality on the  bank of Palaar River situated closer to Vellore was in news.  This is on the NH connecting Chennai and Bangalore.

The famous singer SP Balasubramaniam played the role of a CBI Inspector Laxminarayan in the trail of an incredible 1000 crores stolen from a train by gangsters.  The amount is stashed in a container which has a keycard for opening..   there is a love plot involving a village girl and another in pursuit of the bounty.   The cargo container is then taken on a truck which is hidden in haystack. An interesting cinema but unlikely plot is what once thought…..   That was the storyline of ‘Thiruda Thiruda’ a tamil comedy thriller film directed by Mani Ratnam, and scripted by Ram Gopal Varma in 1993.

Even in the days of e-transactions, credit and debit cards, transporting money is always risky and poses multitude of problems.  It is reported that 9000 crores of Rupees (Rs.9000,00,00,000/-) were held up at Sathuvachari Police Station near Vellore.   Our currency is printed on special paper and in early days currencies were printed only at  the India  Security Press at Nashik by Government of India.  Then RBI established a wholly owned subsidiary in 1995 called Bharatiya Reserve Bank Note Mudran Private Limited (BRBNMPL) with a view to augmenting the production of bank notes in India to enable the RBI to bridge the gap between the supply and demand for bank notes in the country. The company manages 2 Presses one at Mysore in Karnataka and the other at Salboni in West Bengal.

On 12th of this month, 2 trucks with containers laden with currency notes of Rs.1000 denomination (Rs.9000 crores in all) started from Mysore chest for supply of currency to Reserve Bank branch at Chennai.  To provide security to this ‘sensitive cargo’ CRPF personnel armed with weapons travelled in two Innova cars – one in the front and the other after the trucks.  Near Ambur, the trucks went moving fast and the security car at the back lost pace.  Nearing Vellore bypass road, the car collided with a truck injuring all its occupants.  One of the CRPF jawans died and the rest were admitted in to Vellore CMC.  Arising out of this accident, for safety purposes, the trucks were taken to Sathuvachari PS, stationed there with tight security and then moved towards Chennai with heavily armed guards. 

In another tamil drama ‘Crazy thieves in Palavakkam’ – thieves would plan a tunnel to a bank in a remote area.  A few years back thieves in Brazil  escaped with more than £3m after tunnelling underground to a safe and striking as televised football finals gripped the country.   It was at Sao Paulo and Police followed the tunnel  back to a nearby house.  It was described as a  150m tunnel leading from an armoured car company to a nearby house.  The criminals carried out the robbery on the final day of the football season, ensuring local residents were transfixed on events on the pitch.  Though it had high security, it was reported that  electricity to the vault had been cut off and some CCTV cameras were not working when the gang struck.

Banco Itaú was a former Brazilian bank that merged with Unibanco in 2008, to form Itaú Unibanco.  São Paulo is the largest city in Brazil, having a very high population.  Now ‘The Guardian UK’ reports that an armed gang posing as maintenance workers have carried out an audacious bank robbery reminiscent of a Hollywood heist film in Brazil, seizing cash, jewellery and watches valued at around £40m.
The men are understood to have escaped with diamonds "the size of marbles", pure gold ingots, necklaces studded with dozens of jewels, a Rolex watch collection worth more than a luxury apartment and large amounts of euros.  The items  had been kept  in 138 private safes in the basement of a branch of the Itau bank in Sao Paulo belonging to 120 VIP clients.

Newspaper report states that a team of 12 men defeated a high-security system at the bank which includes cameras, movement sensors, guards, grating, a steel door and an alarm system in a carefully planned attack with echoes of films such as Heat and Ocean's Eleven.  Posing as maintenance workers in grey uniforms, they were able to spend 10 hours inside the bank after gaining entry just before midnight before making their escape without even an alarm going off.   Paper quoting the Brazilian weekly news magazine Veja, reported that the  haul of cash and valuables is estimated to be worth at least 100m Brazilian reais (£36.8m), making it the biggest raid on private safes in the country's history. (Rs.276 crores) !!The raid began when two of the gang arrived at the bank on Avenida Paulista, in the heart of the city, in a van and informed a car park security guard that they were part of a team due to replace some furniture within the bank. Once inside the building the men took the lift to the ground floor and confronted the only armed guard on duty inside, pointing pistols and forced him to open the security centre. 

It is further reported that in a planned opeation, the gang set to work with tools including crowbars, drills, sledgehammers, electro-pneumatic hammers, electric saws and a magnetic drill that can penetrate steel. Guardian.co.uk lists out that the stolen items would include most expensive and highly prised Colombian emeralds, Rolex watches, diamond jewellery pieces, 1 kg of pure gold bar, wads of 500 euro notes and many other jewels. 

Whether the heist will ever be solved and stolen materials recovered remains a Question forever ?

Regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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