In what could be the biggest cash heist in the national capital, the driver of a cash transit van allegedly fled with around Rs 22.5 crore from southeast Delhi's Govindpuri area on Thursday.
The incident was reported in the evening when the armed guard accompanying the van asked the driver to stop the vehicle near Govindpuri Metro station so that he could relieve himself by the roadside, said the police.
The driver, identified as Pradeep Shukla, told the guard that he would wait for him in a lane nearby and was last seen taking a sharp turn. When the guard returned, the vehicle and the driver were nowhere to be seen, said police.
The guard, Vinay Patel, informed the matter to the branch concerned of the private bank whose cash they were carrying and bank authorities immediately called up the police.
They told police that they had sent four cash transit vans -- with total cash of around Rs 38 crore -- from their Vikaspuri branch in the day, and the van (DL 1LK 9189) which headed towards southeast Delhi was carrying around Rs 22.5 crore.
However, the final evaluation of the heist would be possible only after the accused is nabbed, the police said.
Personnel from at least two subdivisions of Delhi police's southeast district were roped in along with a specialised crime team and the cash van was soon recovered from near a petrol pump close to the spot where the accused driver had deserted the guard.
However, the boxes containing the cash were missing, said the police.
Senior police officials who rushed to the spot after the incident was reported maintained that this was not a case of robbery but criminal breach of trust. Scores of pickets and police check points were set up across the city and checking was intensified at the borders to track down the accused, said the police.
CCTV grabs have been obtained from nearby premises while eyewitnesses are being examined and several teams have been put on the case, the police added.
The police said that this could be the biggest cash heist in Delhi after the January 2014 gunpoint robbery of Rs 7.69 crore from a businessman at BRT corridor near Moolchand flyover.
Meanwhile, technical surveillance methods failed to yield any results as the accused had left his mobile phone at home when he went for work.
It was the driver's wife who reportedly picked up the phone when called, said police sources.
From preliminary investigation, it appears that the van headed towards Okhla industrial area where it was unloaded and later dropped near the petrol pump by an accomplice and not the accused driver himself, said the sources.
"Search operation shall continue throughout the night and we have obtained some crucial leads, which can't be shared at the moment," a senior official said on Thursday night.
An Axis Bank spokesperson said that the cash was being transported by a private security agency on behalf of an independent ATM deployer for cash replenishments.
"The amount is fully insured so neither the bank nor the customer would get affected. Neither the cash van nor the ATM driver belong to Axis Bank," the spokesperson added.
Image: Police officials at the crime scene in New Delhi. Photograph: ANI