Targets precise in weekend robberies
For almost six years, members of a gang from Barishal have been targeting money exchange agents in the capital and looting huge amounts of cash from them.
Police's detective branch (DB) arrested three members -- Jalil Mollah, Md Riaz and Dipu -- of the gang in raids in Jashore and Savar on Wednesday, officers said.
Police also recovered two foreign firearms, 50 bullets, two motorcycles and Tk 1 lakh in stolen cash, said AKM Hafiz Akter, additional commissioner (DB) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police.
After the arrests, the law enforcement officials learned about the scheme which has enabled the gang to amass significant wealth and property over the last five or six years.
The gang first conducted reconnaissance at money exchange offices in Gulshan and Motijheel, calling agents and asking about converting between 20,000 and 30,000 dollars or euros to Taka.
The gang members then waited for the agent to call back. Once the transaction was agreed upon, some members -- stationed in the Gulshan and Motijheel areas -- started following the agent's movement, gleaning information that would later allow the gang to pounce with precision.
They conduct their operation on Saturdays as traffic is light on the day and the agents shift the cash from home to office after the weekly holiday on Friday.
They used to visit the capital from Barishal every week, rob victims on Saturday and then return to Barishal, Mishu Biswas, additional deputy commissioner of DB, told The Daily Star yesterday.
"The gang mainly chose the time between 11:00am to 2:00pm on Saturday to conduct the robbery," he said.
Police made the arrests while conducting a shadow investigation of a case filed with Ramna Police Station regarding a robbery of Tk 60 lakh from Mouchak flyover on August 28.
A businessman was going towards Gulshan after converting around 29,000 euros into Bangladeshi taka from Motijheel's Nihan Money Exchange.
DB chief Hafiz Akter said members of the gang first intercepted the businessman's car on the flyover around 1:20pm with a private car and two motorcycles. To intimidate the businessman, the robbers fired two shots in the air and broke the car window with a hammer, he said.
Another group opened the back door of the car, seized the cash and left the scene, added Hafiz.
A week later on September 4, the same gang again looted Tk 25 lakh in cash by stopping the car of another businessman, who had just made a transaction at a Motijheel money exchange, in Sanarpar area on the way to Narayanganj from Motijheel, said the police official.
This robbery was also conducted within the gang's preferred time of day, around 1:50pm. As locals tried to stop the robbers, they fired shots, one of which wounded a passer-by, said police.
ADC Mishu Biswas said for the last five to six years, the gang has been conducting robberies every Saturday.
"The gang has around 15 members in their racket. Three to four of the racket are now in jail and three others have been arrested. But some six to eight others are on the run," he said.
The gang members only chose areas without CCTV coverage to conduct the robberies, Mishu said.
The members always used cars to tail targets as the perpetrators could be identified if they were on motorcycles. During the operation, however, they used motorcycles to flee the scene, he added.
All of the members are from Barishal and met each other when serving time in jail, the ADC said.
Jalil is the ringleader and used to take any new recruits to a mazar in Sylhet and make them take an oath of secrecy about the operation and the gang members, Mishu said.
"We have seized two foreign firearms, which the arrestees said they got from Jashore. But they are not revealing the identities of the people who supplied the weapons," he said. "We are suspecting a top gun supplier of the country might have links with this."
Through their weekly robberies, the gang members have amassed substantial property. Jalil is an owner of around 100 decimals of land and a farm in Barishal, said the official.
Another gang member -- who is on the run -- also has a farm with around 80 cattle. The member also owns a sweetmeat shop. Another arrestee, Liton, is renowned in his locality and his wife is a teacher at a government school.
Jalil was an accused in around four cases, Riaz in two cases and Liton in one case, said police.
"Some hundi traders, who often convert foreign currency to local cash, were also targeted by the gang," ADC Mishu said, adding that hundi members were easy targets as they did not file cases after such incidents.
"We have got some information about the absconding members. We are also tracking property details of the arrestees and gang members and a case will be filed after collecting evidence," added ADC Mishu.