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No breakthrough in Salem train robbery case

Updated by admin on Thursday, August 11, 2016 10:40 AM IST

Salem: In a great train robbery, thieves broke open the roof of a parcel van attached to the Salem-Chennai Express and stole Rs. 5.78 crore
cash, which was part of a consignment of soiled currency being transported by the Reserve Bank of India for destruction. The crime
was detected several hours after the train that left Salem on August 8 night arrived in Chennai Egmore early on August 9. Investigation was on but there were no breakthoughs yet.

A team of armed police personnel, led by an Assistant Commandant, escorted the van and were in the adjoining compartment.

The Railway Protection Force registered a case and launched a massive investigation with the assistance of the Tamil Nadu police.

Police said a rectangular hole measuring around 2ft by 1.5 ft was drilled on the roof of the van that contained 226 wooden boxes of
soiled but usable currency totalling Rs. 325 crore. The train, comprising 19 coaches, including three parcel vans, left Salem at 9 p.m.
on Monday and arrived here at 3.57 a.m. The parcel vans were detached from the rake and moved to the yard. The theft came to light
around 11 a.m. when workers entered the van after the seal of the compartment was opened by RBI officials in the presence of police
personnel. Currency kept in four boxes was found stolen.

Investigators have no clue as to where or how the theft took place. The possibility of the thieves drilling a hole in the moving train is
not being ruled out, though the suspicion is that they made their way into the cash van before it was attached to the train at Salem
Junction or after it was detached from the rake in Chennai Egmore.

In the event of the suspects drilling a hole while the train was on the move, it could have happened between Salem and Vriddhachalam, a distance of 138 km, where there is no electrification of rail lines. It is also possible that they managed to sneak into the cash-laden coach before it was sealed for departure and used gas cutters to escape en route. We are probing all angles...surveillance camera footage recorded in Salem and Chennai Egmore railway stations were being perused,” a top police officer said.

Asked how the hole escaped the attention of the escort police, the officer said police inspected the seal affixed on the door of the
coach at every stoppage.

“We usually don’t check the roof as it is a solidly built van. The train has 12 scheduled stoppages between Salem and Chennai
Egmore and police teams are looking for clues at all those railway stations,” he added.

V. Ramasubramani, Inspector General of Police, Government Railway Police, said four boxes were forced open. While one box was
emptied, half of the cash in another was taken. The thieves had also picked some notes from the other boxes that had currency notes
of lower denomination.

The RBI-Chennai region receives soiled and mutilated currency notes periodically from banks across Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. Every day, several lakh pieces of soiled and mutilated notes are processed and shredded. The currency paper is made of cotton and cotton rag and those of lower denominations are likely to be soiled sooner if the use is higher. The life of currency notes of lower denomination, often, is only between six months and one year.

Soiled notes returned to the RBI were segregated as fit for reuse and those that are unfit. Notes falling in the second category were
automatically shredded. Mutilated notes fall in the third category. These were notes that are torn or are missing a portion.

An RBI estimate says that nearly Rs. 550 crore worth of soiled notes was taken out of circulation in the Tamil Nadu region every
month. On an average, nearly 60 lakh pieces of various denominations were destroyed daily.

Transportation of soiled notes through railways was considered safer and cheaper compared to transportation through road. Armed
personnel who accompanied the parcel van were responsible for the consignment until the RBI representatives receive them. If the
trains reached during work hours, the boxes were immediately picked up, sources said.

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