By Nalinee Seelal Tuesday, March 11 2014
A 51-year-old attorney is in police custody following the discovery of three boxes containing millions of dollars believed to be part of the $4.5 million stolen from the Sangre Grande branch of Republic Bank.
The cardboard boxes filled with the cash were found hidden in bushes at Las Lomas, central Trinidad late Sunday afternoon. An exact sum was not disclosed, but Newsday was informed a few million dollars were counted by investigators.
A special team assigned to probe the disappearance of $4.5 million from the bank’s vault on March 1, Carnival Saturday, received information about the location of the boxes of money following the arrest of an attorney who is based in east Trinidad.
Sources revealed that at about 4 pm on Saturday, a party of officers led by Inspector Lutchman intercepted a car driven by the attorney en route to Mathura. The attorney was arrested and remained detained at the Sangre Grande Police Station up to yesterday.
After the boxes were recovered on Sunday they were photographed, special markings were made on them as well as the cash and the items are now lodged at the police station.
Newsday understands that apart from the attorney, several bank employees, police officers and members of a gang are among the suspects in the multi-million dollar heist.
On March 2, Carnival Sunday, six gang members were detained by police and based on information supplied to investigators this led to the arrest of the attorney and the recovery of some of the stolen money. The six gang members also remain in custody. Police expect to recover the rest of the money by the end of the week.
Deputy Police Commissioner Glen Hackett, in charge of Crime and Operations, told Newsday yesterday investigators continue to work round-the-clock on solving the robbery.
“We have made significant progress with respect to this investigation to this present time, and the investigation is now at a very sensitive stage and to divulge any information will be imprudent,” Hackett said. He commended the investigators for their efforts thus far, and also noted the cooperation they have received from several quarters.
Also yesterday, senior officers of the Eastern Division pointed out that all security measures have been put in place to ensure the recovered money is safe at the police station.
A senior official of Republic Bank, who did not want to be named, said yesterday the bank is extremely pleased with the efforts of the police and other security agencies in the investigation.
The official confirmed the bank has been informed that a substantial amount of the $4.5 million was recovered however the final figure is yet to be made available to them. The official said since the robbery new security arrangements have been placed at the Sangre Grande branch.
On Carnival Saturday, at about 2am, Amalgamated Security guards responded to an alarm which was triggered at the branch. When officers arrived they found the back door was broken open and house-breaking implements were found scattered. Officers also discovered the vault and a large quantity of jewelry were missing. Sangre Grande police as well as officials of the National Operations Centre (NOC) teamed up and video footage from surveillance cameras was viewed.
It was learnt that the alarm and lighting system in the bank had been tampered with.
The bank later did an audit which revealed $4.5 million was in the vault when it was stolen.
Police investigators believed that they will make a breakthrough before the end of the week which could see several high-profile persons in the banking and law enforcement agency being detained.