Rs 20 lakh stolen from Malda bank

Malda, Jan. 14: Robbers took away Rs 20 lakh from a Bank of India branch near Malda town after breaking the grilles of a window and forcing open a safe using gas cutters.

The bank, which was closed for the weekend, did not have guards round the clock. It had CCTV cameras, the wires to which had been snapped, police said.

The robbery was detected by the bank's acting branch manager, Sweta Lal, when she came to work this morning.

A large force from Englishbazar police station went to the spot after being alerted about the burglary.

Additional superintendent of police, Shyam Singh, said the officers interrogated the four bank employees for five hours from 11am. The bank operates from a rented building.

The senior manager of Bank of India in Malda, Uday Singh, said: "Around 9.30am today, the acting branch manager, Sweta Lal, came to the bank and found the window grille broken. The robbers had opened the safe using gas cutters and took away all that was inside, more than Rs 20 lakh."

Singh said: "The branch manager, Sukhdev Bari, is on leave."

Asked about the absence of night guards, he said: "We have no provision to keep round-the-clock security guards at the branch, but we have installed CCTVs."

Malda police superintendent Jayanta Pal said sniffer dogs were taken to the spot.

"There was Rs 20,73,745 in the vault and all of it was stolen by the gang who used gas cutters to crack it open. We took dogs to the spot but they could not locate any trail. It seems the gang used a car to get away," Pal said.

"We have found some fingerprints and have asked for the help of experts from the CID. The staff have been interrogated. The connection to the CCTV cameras was severed."

The bank has four cameras. The police chief did not specifically say how many of them had been disconnected.

Acting branch manager Lal said she arrived for work around 9.30am today and entered by unlocking the collapsible gate.

"When I entered the room, I found the safe open and empty. I immediately informed senior officials and the police. I was the first to arrive today," she said.

Investigators said the bank's building is owned by Suleman Sheikh, a resident of Sattari.

The police said Sheikh too was questioned along with the bank staff.

Sattari, where the bank is located is under the Englishbazar police station and is 12km from Malda town.

"We are convinced that the robbery was carried out by at least six persons. It takes more than two persons to bring a gas cylinder and torch and a vehicle is necessary to transport the equipment," said an investigating officer.

"If the window was shut from inside, the robbers would have had to break it open once they got past the grille. We have found no marks to indicate that the window was broken open. It could be that when the bank was closed on Friday, the widow was left open," said the officer.

"Moreover, we are yet to determine when the robbery was carried out in the past two days. We have made inquiries locally and no one seems to have come across anything unusual."

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