5 Epic Heists To Have Been Pulled Off In India

5 Epic Heists To Have Been Pulled Off In India

From Hollywood to Bollywood great heists are lauded over and replicated on screen, bringing some of the world’s greatest thieves into the realm of fandom. Behind these on-screen legends lives a legacy of intelligent hustlers who took immense risks to get away with unlawful offences that show the criminal world in a different light. Perhaps the reason these crimes are hailed as almost heroic is because the best large scale robberies are non-violent and stand testament to the fact that someone’s wits can penetrate the ivory towers of the super rich. Moreover, undeniable talent that emanates from these celebrated criminals is too good to ignore.

For some, the element of surprise plays the underlying role of the crime, like France’s Carton Robbery (the largest reported jewelery heist ) or Jimmy Burke’s Lufthansa Heist at JFK. Then there are others like Carlos Hector Flomenbaum (alias) who rely on cunning charm. He posed as a bank client and managed to steal 28 million dollars from the Bank of Belgium by charming the bank staff by showering them with sweets and chocolates for a year - until he managed to get a hold of the vault keys.

Other robberies, such as The British Bank Of The Middle East, border the surreal. During the Palestine Civil War in 1976 the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Lebanon’s Christian Phalange exploded the walls of Church so they could enter the side of the bank and then spent a week opening the vault. The robbers left the crime scene with valuables worth approximately $210 million today. However, instead of immediately trying to hide themselves they sold back the treasured valuables to their owners for an extra estimated profit of $50-$100 million.

Along with all these legendary robberies, India has always stood out with some fantastic heists, all overflowing with brazen plots and true smarts. Check out this list of India’s greatest robberies.

I. Looting A Moving Train, Tamil Nadu, India (2016)

Robbing a train en route is probably one of the most audacious heists a thief could attempt. And we’re not talking about a Sholay style guns ablazing sort of train robbery; we’re talking a crime that went unnoticed for hours on end - no guns, just cunning criminal dexterity.

Just last year the Salem-Chennai Egmore Express was transporting INR 342 crore in old banknotes weighing a massive 23 tonnes, which were destined to be destroyed in Chennai. Departing Salem at 9:00 pm the train is thought to have been robbed at around 1:30 pm in Vijayakumar. Even after the train arrived at 4:40 am in Chennai it was not discovered until later that day that INR 5.75 crore was missing in large notes.

Image source: The Business Standard

The thieves cut a square hole on the roof of the train roughly around 2x2 feet in diameter. The robbers are suspected to have cut the hole during a long stop in Vijayakumar, however authorities are clueless as to how the steel cutting or welding machines used to cut through the roof went unheard. This suggests that the heist could have taken place while the train was moving and the clatter of the railway tracks actually covered the criminals tracks.

II. Tribhovandas Bhimji Zhaveri (TBZ), Mumbai (1987)

“His preparation was perfect, he knew just how to do such a raid, what documents to prepare. And he left no traces — that is why it worked,” commented Arvind Inamdar, the then Director-General of Police for Maharashtra.

Great heists get a movie made after them; yet, only the greatest heists receive praise from the people encharged with persecuting them.

To rob one of Mumbai’s most prestigious jewelry stores in the bustling Opera House area unarmed and in broad daylight borders the impossible. We only know the genius behind this robbery by his alias Mohan Singh, exactly the way he would have wanted it. Mohan actually put out a newspaper ad in 1987 seeking ‘intelligence officers and post and security officers’, who would unknowingly aid and abet him on this daring robbery.

Mohan hired an office at Mittal Towers in Nariman Point and vetted candidates until he came up with a team of 26-28 men. A bus was hired through the Taj Hotel where Mohan was staying and the unsuspecting candidates boarded, being briefed on a mock raid right before setting off.

Fake government insignia and CBI procedure were handled perfectly, the shutters were boarded, CCTV cameras shut off, and the security guard handed over his licensed pistol. All the officer candidates wore fake Govt. ID cards, and the stolen jewelry was bagged and tagged with fake Govt. seals. After Mohan had taken enough to satisfy himself he told his team to wait at the store while he conducted another raid.

He and his recently acquired 36 lakhs were never seen again despite police teams even being sent to Dubai to find the perp. Although 36 lakhs is the smallest stolen amount featured on this list, we believe this crime, in particular, is extraordinarily sizeable in execution.

III. Mithilesh Kumar Srivastava, AKA Natwarlal (a lifetime of crime across the whole of India).

Although Natwarlal never committed a heist per say, he has committed some of India’s most notorious robberies. In short, he was India’s best con man. “What a bold statement you might ask?” Well, anyone who ‘sold’ the Taj Mahal three times as well as India’s parliament building with hundreds of members sitting in the building at the point of sale deserves such a title.

Natwarlal was first a lawyer, whose ability to forge signatures perfectly was his First Class ticket into the world of crime. This ability in a time before cyber security along with the gift of gab and an unparalleled power to convince made him capable of selling Indian monuments and tricking the likes of Dhirubhai Ambani, the Birlas, and the Tatas, resulting in crores of profit. However, we don’t think he did it for the money as his behaviour strongly suggests he was an adrenaline junkie who simply loved committing theft of absurd proportions.

Natwarlal was wanted by police in eight states, had over 100 police charges against him, and was arrested nine times. He was not only a master criminal, but a master escape artist, eluding his captors every time. His last escape was at the age of eighty-four at the New Delhi Railway Station while being escorted to the hospital in Delhi.

Although the record of his death is highly disputed, no one can deny this man was the definition of a smooth criminal.

IV. Haryana Bank Heist, Haryana’s Gohana Township, 2014

These three daring gents tunnelled through 125 feet of earth to get into the Punjab National Bank’s strong room. An abandoned building across the street from the bank was the site used for excavation. Crores worth of cash and gold were taken, and although the culprits were eventually caught, this crime was a seriously impressive endeavor.

The robbers admitted to being influenced by the heist in the Bollywood movie Dhoom.

V. South Malabar Gramin Bank Heist, Kerala, 2007

Strangely enough the perpetrators of this crime were also influenced by the movie Dhoom. This crime did not involve tunneling, nevertheless the four-member gang guilty of stealing an estimated amount of 80 million Indian rupees drilled into the vault from the floor of the second story bank.

The gang rented out the downstairs restaurant providing them an ideal environment to carry through with this crime.

Sady they lacked the wits and the luck to get away with this crime.