THE Mohali Police on Monday claimed that the gang of alleged dacoits led by former IAS aspirant Ranpreet Singh ‘Rana’ —who has been arrested for the Rs 1.34 crore bank cash van heist — was behind a number of similar such sensational dacoities including the ones at Rajat Jewellers in MDC, Panchkula; Khuda Ali Sher in Chandigarh and at a property dealer’s house in Mohali last year.
While police had picked up eight members of the gang earlier, two more alleged members, including an engineering graduate, were arrested on Monday. The B.Tech graduate has been identified as Harjit Singh ‘Harry’, 28, a resident of Dasuya in Hoshiarpur, an alumnus of the Chandigarh College of Engineering in Landran.
Police said that the gang has been active for the past two years and claimed to have solved nine robbery cases. Diamond jewellery, vehicles and other items worth Rs 63.70 lakh have been recovered while a car dumped in the Bhakra canal in Samana, which police said was used for the MDC dacoity, is being recovered. Police added a few more members of the gang are absconding, including a jeweller allegedly possessing a major share of the robbed jewellery.
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According to police, the cases show how Rana and his men gradually moved from burglaries to snatching at gunpoint to ultimately indulging in daring daylight heists. In all the major cases, the dacoits used robbed vehicles to carry out the crimes and later abandoned them. They also wore monkey caps and gloves, did not use mobile phones, and used country-made handguns and sharp-edged weapons.
Police said that seven members of the gang were involved in the MDC dacoity in which jewellery worth Rs 1.53 crore was robbed on July 13 last year. Of the seven, four were arrested last week while three new names have surfaced: Landran resident Manpreet Singh ‘Mani’, who has been arrested, Sector 91 resident Surinderpal Singh ‘Rinku’ and Gobindgarh village resident Gurjant Singh ‘Janta’, both of whom are at large.
According to the Mohali Police, the gang used a white Chevrolet Optra and not a Chevrolet Cruze as was believed until now, for the Rajat Jewellers heist and chose the jewellery shop as Rana had worked as a sales executive at a firm located near it. “He knew about the shop, the owner’s routine and other information needed to carry out the crime,” said IG (Patiala zone) Paramjit Gill.
“It was a well-planned dacoity. The gangsters did not use mobile phones, kept their faces covered, and dumped the Optra in Samana to not leave behind a trace. The Optra had been stolen from a house in Phase 10 a night before the incident, and had a fake number plate on it,” Gill said, adding that diamond jewellery worth Rs 25 lakh, besides a handgun used in crime, has been recovered.
The IG added that on June 27, nine members of the gang allegedly carried out the dacoity outside State Bank of Patiala in Khuda Ali Sher, using a Toyota Fortuner robbed from near Rajpura a few days earlier. They attacked guards unloading cash from a van, but the guards resisted, and dacoits could only take away a single cash trunk containing Rs 5 lakh. Seven of the nine men allegedly involved in this crime have now been arrested, while the Hyundai i20 used to rob the Fortuner has been recovered, besides two motorcycles and a pistol. The looted cash has been spent by the gang, police said.
Earlier in February last year, seven dacoits had entered a businessman’s house in Phase 3B1, and looted jewellery worth Rs 35-40 lakh at gunpoint, after gagging and tying up the family. Police now said that the gang was behind this crime as well.
“In perhaps the first major robbery by the gang, they looted Rs 8 lakh from outside Reliance Fresh store in Phase 5 on June 10, 2013,” said SP (detective) GS Grewal. Five gangsters on two motorcycles snatched the bag at gunpoint from an employee of a cash collection agency after he stepped out of the store in the afternoon.
Other traced cases include the robbery of the Fortuner (used in the Chandigarh dacoity) from near Rajpura, the theft of Optra from Mohali resident Gaurav Midha, and theft of laptops, a Honda Amaze, and LCD TVs from Rajpura in January this year. IG Gill called the development a “historical achievement of the Rupnagar range police”.