CHENNAI: After the five accused in the Salem train heist have been in the CB-CID custody for 14 days, they were lodged in the Puzhal prison on Monday. The interrogations have revealed their plans and execution of the heist in which they looted around Rs 5.78 crore.
According to a statement from the CB-CID, “Interrogation of the accused revealed that the main accused Mohar Singh is a native of Khejrachak village in Guna district of Madhya Pradesh. His uncle and cousins along with a few other relatives and friends were going around as a gang committing offences in many states including Rajasthan, Delhi, Haryana, Gujarat and Maharashtra. Before Mohar took charge as the leader of the gang, his cousin Kiran was the leader.”
Why move South?
Kiran and his brothers were involved in a case of murder for gain in Jammu and Kashmir in 2006, in which five members of a family were brutally murdered and property was looted. The Jammu and Kashmir police arrested all of them between 2007 and 2010 while Kiran absconding. Later, Kiran died in a police encounter in 2012. Between 2006 and 2010, Mohar Singh emerged as the gang leader.
Speaking about how the gang moved to South India, the statement read, “Mohar Singh had developed enmity towards Ruksad Pardi and Naval Pardi as he suspected that they were passing information to the local police about the offences committed by his gang. Hence, Mohar Singh shot them dead during an altercation in June 2015. Mohar Singh, his brothers Ramboojan, Gajraj, his sister Sulochana, his wife Banwara bai and a few other members of his gang were involved in this murder.”
Since he was under the radar of the local police, Mohar Singh went absconding and moved to South India along with members of his gang. Mohar Singh and his gang had moved into Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka and committed many offences. They reached Tamil Nadu in 2016. The members stay on the roadside or near railway tracks, raising temporary homes. They used to work as daily wage labourers and street vendors and would choose the scene to commit crime, said the police.
Plan and execution
“During his stay in Tamil Nadu, he came to know about the movement of cash in the Salem-Chennai train route through one of the gang members, who was staying in Salem. Mohar Singh, along with a few of his close associates, held reconnaissance on this route by travelling between Ayothiapattinam and Virudhachalam railway stations repeatedly for more than a week,” said the statement.
They decided to operate between Chinnasalem and Virudhachalam stations as the train was running more than 45 minutes without a halt on this stretch. As per the plan, Mohar Singh and four associates got into the train in Chinnasalem when it was about to move.
Taking advantage of the dark vicinity at which the engine and attached parcel van halted in the Chinnasalem station, they went on to the roof of the parcel van and cut a hole in the roof while the train was on the move. They used a combination of battery-operated and manual cutters to cut the hole in the roof of parcel van carrying cash.
Later, two of them entered the parcel van, broke open the wooden boxes, took cash bundles, wrapped them in six lungis and tied them. As per the plan, the other members were waiting trackside for over 200 metres at the Vayalur overbridge near Virudhachalam station.
When the train was moving on this stretch of curved track, while approaching Virudhachalam, those on the rooftop of the slow-moving train threw the cash bundles wrapped in lungis towards the other gang members waiting on the ground. They, then, jumped off the slow-moving train and fled.
What happened to notes?
Mohar Singh allegedly revealed that the cash looted was shared among the gang members after reaching the village. The arrested men have claimed that much of the cash they got became useless due to demonetisation within three months of the heist. However, CB-CID is probing to verify the same.
On August 8, 2016, a cash load of currency was transported from IOB in Salem to the RBI in Chennai. A railway parcel van VPH 08831 was attached to the Salem-Chennai Egmore Express.
The train left Salem Junction at 9.05 pm and arrived at Egmore at 3.55 am on August 9, 2016.
The parcel van was opened around 11 am by the RBI officials who found Rs 5.78 crore stolen. The Egmore GRP filed a case on August 9, 2016, and it was transferred to CB-CID.