ATM heist in Bangalore puts Canara Bank's security under cloud

In what could be the most audacious ATM heist that India has seen, thieves actually busted open a cash dispenser on a busy street of Bangalore Saturday evening, and made away with as much as Rs 19.86 lakh in cash.

The crooks had obviously cased the joint before they struck. Carrying blow-torches, they half-closed the metal pull-down shutters before they went to work, knowing the security guard mandated for all ATMs was not in place.

This made it easier for them to rob the Canara Bank ATM just off the humming Bellary Road in the business district of one of the country's few prosperous cities.

The crooks cut open a side of the ATM machine with gas-fired torches, easy to obtain in India (unlike loose petrol or diesel, of which sales have been banned since Raj times).

By the time the Chennai headquarters of the bank could get an alert, the miscreants had fled with the cash. Curiously, both ATM cameras were defunct.

The ATM kiosk has two doors, one facing main road and another facing a narrow street. Neither was guarded.

"From investigations, we suspect that one of the men had entered through the main door and then closed the shutters," said the cops.

The last withdrawal at the ATM was made at 6.40 pm. No doubt the gang was waiting for this before they struck from the side door, pulling down the shutters to make people believe it was closed – perhaps for 'repairs', as Indians are used to dysfunctional ATMs.

Pieces of the dispensing machine were found all over the ATM enclosure and the 'cassette' containing the cash was missing, the police said.

The incident came to light when someone called the Canara Bank. The police arrived at 10.30 pm, long after the crooks had vanished with the cash.

Deputy Commissioner of Police (North) S N Siddramappa, the officer on the case, told Deccan Chronicle, ''The CCTV inside the ATM had not been functioning for the last four months. Even the wire of the camera inside the machine had been cut, rendering it inoperative since 38 May. But the bank authorities had not bothered to repair either of the cameras.

''We have no clues to follow at the moment.''

Despite knowing the standard procedure, the bank authorities had not even employed a security guard outside the ATM, he added.

As usual, the cops have rounded up the residents of a house and the employees of a tailor shop located near the ATM for questioning. But given the police record across states, the culprits will never be caught if they have the sense to lie low.

The incident should make the public think twice about ATMs of banks based in Tamil Nadu. A couple of weeks back, five college-educated men were arrested in Madurai, the state's principal port, for withdrawing vast amounts of money from ATMs in the city using fake cards.

As many as 260 fake debit cards, a skimmer, stolen cash to the tune of Rs4 lakh, a laptop, a car and a motorcycle were seized from them. The police believe the masterminds of that racket were based in Canada.