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The 70 million-rupee question: Why did vehicle take lonely route?

[Sunday Times.lk, Sunday, 26 September 2010 07:50 No Comment]

Five teams – each headed by an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) were investigating the Friday-dawn robbery, one of the biggest in recent years, at Wanawasala, in the Peliyagoda Police area.

The 22-year-old driver and four others who were in the vehicle are being grilled by police to ascertain possible inside involvement in the daring robbery of approximately Rs. 70 million which was being transported to replenish automatic teller machines (ATMs).

crew-cab ASP D.R.L Ranawaeera of the Colombo Crime Division (CCD), told the Sunday Times that the vehicle had taken a lonely route despite instructions from superiors to travel only on main roads. He said it was possible that the robbers may have had prior information that the vehicle was plying that route.

The money was being transported by two officers of Transnational Logistic Lanka Private Ltd of Borella along with two security guards from a private firm. The five member team had left the Borella office at 11.10 pm on Thursday in a crew cab.

The team drove up to Negombo and went back to the Wattala HSBC branch. Their next move was to get on to the Kandy road. The driver, a resident of Wanawasala took a short cut which branches off from Wattala leading through Wanawasala to the Thorana junction.According to a statement made by the team the vehicle had proceeded barely one kilometer through a heavy downpour of rain when they were suddenly intercepted by two men wearing raincoats over a uniform similar to that of Civil Defence Force members.

HSBC-Graphic They soon realized that it was not a routine check, but that the men standing before them were armed — one of them pointing a T56 weapon and the other holding a hand grenade. They had first grabbed the two shot guns of the two security men. Three more gangsters had sprung up. They were on three motorcycles.

One of them got into the driving seat while the other got into the rear seat. The vehicle which was intercepted close to Thorana junction was then turned back and driven to a lonely spot close to a marshland about half a kilometre away.

The men had then grabbed the hand phones of the men in the vehicle and using gumtape bound their hands behind and left them inside the vehicle while the other gangsters opened the rear of the vehicle where the money was stored and removed all the cash amounting to an estimated Rs. 70 million.

According to the statements the operation had not lasted more than half an hour.

A few minutes later the bound men had managed to get out of the vehicle and reached a nearby house where they were untied and telephoned the 119 emergency service who arrived within 10 minutes.

Senior Superintendent of Police Kithsiri Ganegama who is also involved in the investigation told the Sunday Times that one of the nagging questions was why the vehicle had taken a lonely route.

“The main roads are guarded at night and the chances of such a robbery occuring would have been less. The incident shows they had been negligent about security ,” he said.

[Full Coverage]

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