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The Great Train Robbery: Rs 5 cr out of Rs 340 cr RBI cash moved by train stolen

Chennai: In a daring heist in a moving train, Rs five crore out of Rs 340 crore cash being sent to Reserve Bank of India here from Salem in Tamil Nadu was found stolen today, police said.

A sum of Rs five crore had been stolen, IGP M Ramasubramani told reporters hours after the incident came to light when four of the 226 boxes stacked with the cash were found tampered with on arrival of the train here.

Meanwhile, an RBI official said the train was carrying also soiled notes from Salem to Chennai in 226 boxes with a total value of Rs 340 crore.

“Out of the 226 wooden boxes, four boxes were found tampered with soon after the train reached Chennai from Salem,” the official said.

Police said an air-vent in one of the three cargo coaches in which the cash boxes were kept was found broken, triggering doubts that someone could have entered from its roof.

They suspect that culprits could have entered the coach on the Salem-Vriddhachalam section where trains don’t run on electricity but on diesel locomotives, making it easy for the robbers to make their way from the top.

Police said they were probing several angles including how the theft could have happened despite police protection provided to the cash which had both currency notes printed prior to 2005 as well as soiled notes.

Currency notes printed prior to 2005 had been ordered to be exchanged by the central bank with June 30 last as the deadline.

Later, Superintendent of Police (Government Railway

Police) P Vijayakumar, who is heading investigation in Chennai Division, said it has been found that a total of Rs 5.78 crore had been stolen.

Police IGP Ramasubramani told reporters that robbers had gained access into the train cargo van that was carrying cash by cutting open the roof.

“They had made a hole,” he said, adding it was a “news” even for the police escort party from Salem which was headed by a Deputy Police Superintendent. The police escort had travelled in a nearby compartment, he said.

The heist came to light when the cargo van was opened by RBI authorities by 11 AM at the railway cargo yard in Egmore here, he added. RBI officials lodged a complaint with RPF authorities who have registered a case, he said.

The cargo compartment was part of Chennai Express from Salem, he said.

Four wooden cargo boxes stuffed with cash was found ripped open and one of it with high value denomination found fully stolen and others partially, he said.

Asked where the robbery could have taken place, he said the train had stopped in as many as ten locations since it began its journey from Salem (by 9.30 pm) yesterday.

The train was stopped at Virudhachalam to get the compartments connected to an electric engine, he said. Till Virudhachalam, the train was run on a diesel engine.

“We cannot say whether the heist occurred when the train was running or not. The cash was loaded in Salem and when the cargo van was opened in Chennai, the cash was found stolen… all other things are under investigation,” he said.

On probe, he said the Government (Tamil Nadu) Railway Police is with Railway Protection Force (RPF) which is responsible to probe such offences. “We are, however, together in probe,” he said.

While a GRP SP will head a team in Tiruchirappalli another SP will head a team in Chennai, he said, adding all GRP authorites in the Chennai-Salem line have been asked to look into the matter.

He confirmed that the currency notes were soiled and old but still continued to be legal tender.

After the visit of top GRP and RPF officials to the spot, the remaining cash was taken away by authorities from the railway compartments, police said.