By Dr. K. Javeed Nayeem, MD
There are times when I think that I have told a story fully and that there is nothing else to talk about it when some most unexpected developments nudge me to go on and tell some more! This is the situation that I am now in because of the overwhelming feedback that I have been receiving in response to my last article about the bank robbery in Mysuru, sixteen years ago.
The first person to call me was KBG himself which is not one bit surprising, because being the man at the top of the editorial ladder, he is the third person after me, to read the final draft of any article that I write. Now if you are wondering who the second person in this hierarchy is, it is my wife as she goes over all my weekly writings with a fine-toothed comb!
KBG called up to say that the story of the bank heist I had written was most interesting and because most readers would have forgotten this sensational event that had been covered extensively in SOM and which had jolted Mysureans, it deserved a recap. And, that means that my promised story about the Murphy Baby has to wait for a week and I hope my readers will bear with me.
So here I am, after having gone to bed yesterday after a long telephonic chat with my present subject, Madanraj Urs only to wake up today morning and find elaborate handwritten notes from him in my mail as the fodder to help me with my writing! Although I had told you how he was implicated in the case only to be absolved later, most people were eager to know how the robbery actually took place at such a highly secured area and how the case, that defied a breakthrough for a full year, was finally solved.
During this intervening period, Madanraj, who found one of the stolen notes, was questioned twice by the CBI, once at the BRBNML guest house and then at his own house and was finally issued a summons to appear before the CBI at Kochi where the missing of the currency notes was detected.
While these interrogation sessions, where five officers fired salvos of rapid-fire questions at him non-stop, were bad enough, he was mortally scared of the fate that awaited him if he went to Kochi. But there was no way out for him and so he booked a bus ticket for the fateful journey, with the then former MLA S.A. Ramdas, who was also the President of the BRBNML Employees Union, guiding him about the legal precautions he should take before embarking on his uncertain journey.
But just a day before he was to leave for Kochi the real thief was nabbed and so he was able to get a reprieve from the CBI from appearing before their investigating team there. He says that there was every possibility that he would have been arrested at Kochi for no fault of his, if this breakthrough had not occurred at the last moment!
Now here is the story of what actually happened and the turn of events that followed it. It appears, a CISF security guard of the BRBNML currency printing unit, Sabulal who hailed from Doddekoppal village in K.R. Nagar taluk, somehow managed to make a duplicate key of the currency vault of the printing press. And, armed with this, on a day when it was his turn to guard the vault, he managed to switch off the CCTV cameras and steal fifty lakh rupees in newly printed five-hundred-rupee notes from a consignment that was kept ready there for dispatch to Kochi in Kerala.
His state of preparation was so elaborate and meticulous that he had managed to smuggle into the vault packets filled with wood and metal pieces, identical in weight and size which he cleverly used to replace the packets of the notes he stole!
So, it was only when the dispatched notes were opened at the bank in Kochi that the theft was noticed. All hell broke loose after this and because of its magnitude and implications on the security system of the ultra-high security BRBNML press, the case was handed over to the CBI, the premier investigating agency of the country.
Despite interrogating more than 150 people, the investigating team could not make a breakthrough as their entire suspicion and focus was on two officers and three industrial workers who were shuttling between Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Mysuru in the course of their duty of transporting newly printed currency notes.
It was Ramdas who wrote to the CBI repeatedly to shift their focus a little and interrogate the security personnel too and thankfully his suggestion which was accepted yielded the desired result. It was again Ramdas, who wrote to the then Finance Minister P. Chidambaram to issue a directive to all banks across the country to screen all five-hundred-rupee denomination notes passing through them, that led the investigating team to the actual culprit.
So, when an automobile mechanic deposited in his bank account at K.R. Nagar the amount which he had received for the repair of a mini bus, some of the suspect notes were detected and it was discovered that the vehicle belonged to Sabulal, who had by then been transferred to BHEL unit at Kengeri in Bengaluru. And, with his arrest the mystery of the missing notes was finally solved!
But had the CBI acted early on the suggestion of Ramdas, the missing notes would have been found a full five months earlier when the thief in a most amazing and rather daring act of charity, donated a sum of six lakh rupees to the tsunami relief fund! A sum of nearly thirty lakh rupees was found hidden in a steel vessel in the kitchen of his village house. And, most interestingly, although he became a thief later, perhaps out of sheer greed, Sabulal had the distinction as a college student in Mysuru of having represented his NCC unit at a Republic Day Parade at New Delhi before he joined the CISF! And, thankfully for his reputation, because someone is never called a thief until convicted, he died while he was still on trial and was working as an honest auto driver!
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NOTE: This is one of Dr. Javeed Nayeem’s most readable columns with a ring of Sherlock Holmes, the super detective, created by the Scottish writer Conan Doyle.
Reading Dr. Javeed’s narration of the case, I felt very sorry for Madanraj Urs who unwittingly got caught in the CBI net. That is called fate, Vidhi. Let it be.
Here the role of the then former MLA S.A. Ramdas seems the master key for the detection of the case which seemed elusive for a year with the CBI following the wrong scent for too long. Reading Dr. Javeed, I felt sorry for those Officers who were suspected and grilled. It is primarily because of the intervention of Ramdas, at the highest level of Finance Minister, and fortunately the positive response from the Ministry, that finally trapped the real culprit. Otherwise the needle of suspicion would have remained pointing towards the hapless Madanraj Urs and those Officers.
Small wonder, the Finance Ministry took the suggestion of Ramdas seriously and acted on it. In turn, it was the obedient discharge of duty, as directed by the Finance Ministry, by the local Bank (a great surprise!) that finally unravelled the “Gordian Knot”.
I guess, Ramdas must be complimented for thinking outside the box and thus helping the authorities to catch the thief. In last Sunday’s column Dr. Javeed described the initial role of Madanraj Urs in this case to that of the famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. Looking back, now I think that honour should go to our present MLA Ramdas.
Dr. Javeed may now pursue the story to tell his readers the trauma those innocent Officers and others (if any) suffered during those days of investigation. – K.B. Ganapathy, Sr. Journalist