Dominic Selvaraj drove away an ATM cash van containing Rs 1.37 crore, pulling off a massive heist under the nose of the authorities, exposing a huge hole in the security apparatus of banks and logistics companies. The RBI has strict safety guidelines in place but these are clearly being flouted as drivers are hired without background checks, banks still use cash trunks without digital locks and vans have no electronic tracking systems.
It took the police less than a week to find Dominic Selvaraj, the driver who drove away with a van full of cash — Rs 1.37 crore to be exact — to be deposited in ATMs on November 23. Even prompt police action however, cannot diminish the enormity of the crime and city-dwellers don’t feel any more secure about money being regularly transported from banks to its ATMs.
Ask those involved in transportation of cash and they admit that not all banks and agencies entrusted with the job take adequate measures to keep the money secure in transit, despite the strict RBI guidelines.
If banks want to move cash, they may even settle for a van without GPS”
— A Writer Corporation employee
Banks are known to use either agencies or their own vans to transport cash every day to ATMs, sometimes making multiple deliveries. The vans usually have a driver, a security guard and maybe a couple of staff members, either from the agency or the bank on board.
Depending on the location different measures are taken to keep tabs on the vans. For example a cash van operating in a Naxal affected area may have larger security than one operating in relatively safe Bengaluru.
A common central switch will help monitor all cash vans and ATMs and will help in curbing and sort of crime.”
— A senior PNB official
But although the vehicles are supposed to be fitted with GPS, not all are, according to sources in Writer Corporation, an agency that provides its services to banks for transporting cash to ATMs across the city. “It is not uncommon for even banks to sometimes use vans not fitted with GPS. It’s a matter of pressure,” says an agency insider.
Ask him what happens if a heist like the one recently involving Dominic Selvaraj takes place and he says, “The security agencies are the ones that suffer as almost all banks insure their cash and claim in-transit cash insurance in case there is an untoward incident.”
Most of the ATM’s too are clocked, which mean they are connected to a central network which monitors the ATM. In an area which is high density, cash vans may carry up to Rs 30 lakhs per ATM. Totally up to Rs 2 crores can be carried by the vans at any point of time ”
— A senior SBT official
Most big private banks have their own ‘Switch,’ which is a central unit to electronically monitor cash vans and ATMs , according to a senior Punjab National Bank official. A State Bank of Travancore official also reveals that ATMs are connected to a central network which monitors them. “ In a high density area, cash vans may carry up to Rs 30 lakh per ATM. Totally up to Rs 2 crore can be carried by the vans at any point of time,” he adds.
But with some smaller banks also using white label ATM service providers that operate the ATMs on their behalf on contractual basis, its believed a common Central Switch needs to be established to keep tabs on the cash being delivered.
Contends a senior Punjab National Bank official, “A common central switch will help monitor all cash vans and ATMs and in curbing crime.”
The Writer Corporation insider suggests a standard procedure needs to be laid down for companies transporting cash. “The government needs to ensure there is fixed set of guidelines for cash vans. GPS solutions to provide real-time tracking of vehicles on the road must be made compulsory. And a geo-fence boundary presetting option, which ensures that no driver deviates from a fixed route, should also be made mandatory,” he insists.
Fit vans with a central switch
It is not first time that an ATM heist was reported in the city. Still, banks and agencies entrusted with handling and transporting large amounts of cash have failed to take adequate measures, or even adhere in full to the strict RBI guidelines that have been put in place.
The bank needs to check the antecedents of the persons involved in transporting cash. The cash vans need to be fitted with GPS. Even if they are fitted with the tracking system, vans need regular maintenance and one must constantly ensure that the GPS actually works.
Different measures are taken at different places to keep tabs on cash vans. For example, a cash van operating in a Naxal-affected area may have a larger security component than one operating in relatively safe Bengaluru City. It is time laws are passed to ensure security agencies are brought in line. A common central switch needs to be established. According to a senior PNB official, “A common central switch will help monitor all cash vans and ATMs and will help in curbing any sort of crime.”
A standard procedure needs to be laid down for companies transporting cash. The government needs to ensure there is fixed set of guidelines for cash vans. GPS solutions provide real-time tracking of vehicles on the road. After deployment the vehicle managers or concerned officers of the bank can track the movement of the vans.
A geo-fence boundary presetting option is also available which ensures no driver deviates from a fixed route. If there is an anomaly, the vehicle manager will get instant SMS alert. He can inquire promptly, contact the police and avoid the possibilities of attack.
Of Bonnie and Clyde: India’s biggest heists
- Clyde Champion Barrow and his partner, Bonnie Parker were gunned down by the police in an ambush near Sailes, Bienville Parish, Louisiana on May 23, 1934. Bonnie and Clyde were suspected of numerous killings and were wanted for murder, robbery, and kidnapping. The city saw its own Bonnie and Clyde wannabes in Dominic Selvaraj and his wife, Evelyn. The couple gave the police the slip till Evelyn was picked up at Kullappa circle on Sunday night. A couple of days later Dominic was nabbed near Tin factory, K.R. Puram, bringing their run to an end.
- Jaisingh Bijawat, 54, of Ajmer in Rajasthan, and Poonam Kodekar, 46, of Chharanagar, Ahmedabad were involved in a series of jewellery store robberies till they were caught in 2014. The duo had got away with jewellery worth crores until they were nabbed.
- Ulhas Prabhakar Khaire, 33, and his wife , Raksha J. Urs, 30, of Bengaluru cheated two lakh people of Rs 493 crore through an organised racket across India. They conned people into making investments in the stock market and promised astronomical returns that never came.
- Mayur Bhunde alias Bunty, 26, and Pooja Bhunde alias Babli, 23 of Ambegaon Pathar stole only gold ornaments from locked houses that they regularly monitored.
- In June 2014, Mangaluru police arrested Mysuru couple Haricharan Rao and Archana Rao for cheating more than 30 photographers in Mangaluru promising them to get US visas, and taking Rs 75,000 per person. The couple used prestigious IT company Infosys’ name to cheat the photographers, promising them to get jobs in US that would get them Rs 4.5 lakh a month.
- In September 2015, Delhi police arrested a couple Pooja alias Jaya Sharma (30) and Arun Dan (23), who were part of a gang that cheated people by promising to encash their matured LIC policies. The couple was part of a gang of seven who contacted senior citizens holding LIC policies. They would fraudulently promise to get the policy-holders a fat bonus on LIC policies provided they gave a commission.