THE ROBBERY of Rs 1.56 crore from an ATM van at Dharavi on Friday was reportedly carried out by a group that the Mumbai Police call the “Ramji Nagar gang”. Ramji Nagar in the Trichy district of Tamil Nadu has seen raids by police teams from across the country to arrest residents accused in robbery cases, said investigators.
On Sunday Night, two teams, from the Mumbai crime branch and from the Dharavi police station, conducted raids at several places in Ramji Nagar. However, officers said, the accused had fled by then. So far, the police have arrested three persons, two of them from Ramji Nagar, and recovered Rs 15 lakh from the 1.56 crore that was stolen, said the police.
An officer who is part of the investigating team said that from the interrogation of the three accused — Sureshkumar Pandurangam and Arumugam Sherve, who are Ramji Nagar residents, and Kamala Devendra, a Mumbai resident — they found that the plan had been hatched in Ramji Nagar. The modus operandi in this case perfectly matched those employed by gangs that come from Ramji Nagar, an officer said.
“Ramji Nagar in Trichy is notorious for many of its inhabitants being involved in cases of robbery. They go to cities across the country, primarily metros, in a 12-member team. “
“This team is divided into three groups — one of men, second of juveniles to carry out the recce, and the third of a cook and a washerman to look after their needs while they stay in the city. Everyone has a specific task,” an officer said.
The officer added, “They go to a particular city and start looking for banks and ATMs they can target. The recce is done by children to avoid suspicion. They stay in the city for around a month and travel with their own cook. Over a few weeks, they note down the time when a security van carrying cash approaches an ATM or a bank, the number of security guards accompanying it, and other details.”
On the day of the crime, they distract the driver of the van by ‘alerting’ him to money ‘fallen on the ground’. Four-five people of the gang then surround the driver blocking his view, even as two others open the van and run away with the cash chest. They also have men who distract bystanders by involving them in conversation, the officer added.
“The crime in Dharavi bears their signature and we had suspected their involvement right from the start. After the three arrests confirmed our suspicion, we sent teams to Ramji Nagar,” a senior officer said. The teams found the homes of the accused locked, sources said.
“It is extremely difficult to arrest someone from Ramji Nagar. They have a lot of local support and given their clout, they are at times alerted by local authorities too. Our teams are, however, stationed there and we hope to arrest the accused,” the officer added.
The police said some Ramji Nagar residents have managed to amass enough wealth to build bungalows allegedly from robberies. “ When they travel to other cities to commit robberies, at least the top rung is known to travel in AC trains or luxury buses,” the officer added.