Ramji-Nagar Robin-Hoods...
By Maxwell Pereira
maxpk@vsnl.com

Shaktivel of Ramji Nagar in Tiruchirapally of Tamil Nadu enjoys a Rohid Hood image. Married with two children, his father Chandran’s funeral in Madurai in April 2004 reflected their clout in the area. Referred to as ‘Aiyya’ the villagers respect Shaktivel for his generosity and helpful nature. Living in lavish style and changing vehicles often, his two bungalows in Trichy, and a many acre’d farm in Ramjinagar, sport large gardens and a swimming pool. No one knows though his source of income. Surprisingly, the properties are not in his name, nor is any bank account traceable to him. In the face of extreme reluctance and resistance on the part of locals to part with any information, Shaktivel remains an enigma for those who want to investigate him.

Exactly a year ago, the New Delhi District police cracked down on a Tamilian gang of criminals. Considered among the most elusive, the first two of these were actually nabbed by public while in the act of trying to steal Rs.10 Lakhs from Global Bank in Connaught Place. The police did an excellent follow up by swiftly rounding up 15 more of this gang from hideouts in Teesra Pushta of Usmanpur in North East Delhi, before they could fly their hole.

Intensive interrogation revealed them to be from Ramji Nagar, their modus operandi for crime and disposing off property unique. Arriving in groups of 10-20 with a leader who travelled in luxury – AC coach or by air, with definite work charter, each member assigned a specific task. Adults concentrating on actual commission, with juveniles for recce, as sentinels for look out, and when necessary to divert attention for quick getaway. Normally with a cook and a washerman too, to hold fort and be self sufficient. Leader always moved and stayed separate.

Specialised in robbing cash from potential victims in and around banks – while on their way to deposit money or while returning after withrawing large sums, members of this gang avoid violence. Instead, concentrate on their ability to con individuals by diverting attention, or by just snatching and running with the booty catching the victm off-guard. Divested of cash contents, briefcases/ papers/ purse/ bags or wallets to be discarded in running trains.

To conceal identity and place of origin, never on their person or baggage, any mark of identity; destroying even travel tickets and STD receipts. If caught, a fake name and parentage and an address unverifiably far removed from their own.

In their pockets an indigenous powder of an irritant that caused sneezing and watering of the eyes – to immobilise policemen or other public. This their only distinguishing feature. Sometimes a picture of Sai-Baba or Lord Tirupati too. They avoid stealing mobile phones, considering the item too small a reward for their effort. Their own mobiles, yes – preferably Reliance, purchased through fictitious name and address.

Methods to divert attention – by deliberately dropping/ scattering new currency notes and innocently suggesting to the victim perhaps he has dropped his money. Or by one of the juveniles knocking on the driver’s window to engage attention, to facilitate another operator to vanish with the bag/ briefcase from the co-driver’s or rear seat.

At banks and places of cash transaction, the recee party observe features peculiar – number of people in the shift, lean period, accesses – front, rear or side entries, location of the guard… and assess possibilty to remove cash and escape without getting noticed. Then discuss with the leader the modalities for executing, always preferring to steal without attracting attention or arousing suspicion. So deft in their expertise, that in one case they bagged 15 lacs from Standard Chartered Bank kept at the cashiers’ desk. Neither the cashier nor others could figure out when and how the money vanished, till the police contacted them. It was only then they learnt their money was in-fact stolen.

When not able to execute a silent job, they resort to an elaborate exercise of engaging people in conversation. Likewise picking bags and briefcases from cars at market places, when a victim parks his car and is busy paying the parking attendant. They are experts too at opening car window glasses without causing damage.

After every operation, entire loot handed over to the leader, who will assign one member to carry it to home base and deposit in a designated bank account. Of a small booty, leader keeps 60% and distributes rest – 10,000/- to the one who lifted the bag, 3,000/- to his main accomplice, lesser amounts to others. Each using the money order route to send it to family, not more than 5000/- from one post office. Loot more than 10 lacs, taken by gang leader by air to deliver to the village Headman. ICICI, the prefered bank for all, being operable for deposit and withdrawal from any centre/ counter in the country.

In the event of capture, rest to abandon hide out – not necessarily to leave city, but continue to operate almost without a gap. Constrained to leave town on apprehension of an important member, depart to a pre-determined destination, never straight back home. A lady lawyer on regular retainer in Delhi with her ‘munshi’ husband, to handle all legal backup, at times providing shelter and conduit for disposing looted cash.

New Delhi police could identify two gangs from Ramji Nagar. One with 37 members under Kumaran @ Ravi Kumar – most arrested. The other 45 strong led by Shakthivel, none arrested. All efforts to nab Shaktivel in the past one year have proved nix, despite court warrants et al. To what extent the Income Tax authorities and Tamil Nadu police are interested in the matter, is not known. Till Shaktivel’s arrest, Delhi will continue to be bled!

900 words: 19 .04.2005: Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http:// www.maxwellperira.com and maxpk@vsnl.com

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