Diamonds stolen from bank lockers by making duplicate keys

Diamonds stolen from bank lockers by making duplicate keys

The gang made as many as 15 duplicate keys and for making duplicate of a single key, it had to labour for three months, police said today.

Real estate agent Shamshuddin Azmi (47), diamond trader Ajay Mehta (48), key-maker Fareed Hashmi (47) and their associate Chandrasen Berde (49) were arrested yesterday and court remanded them to police custody till January 25.The stolen diamonds have been recovered from Mehta's residence in Valsad, Gujarat, police said.

The gang first hired locker in the branch. Then, as instructed by Hashmi, his three aides visited the lockers room, inserted blank keys in the keyholes of lockers to get impressions that helped him make duplicates, said Joint Police Commissioner (Crime) Himanshu Roy.
"Hashmi prepared one common custodian key applicable to all 1800 lockers in the branch, and 14 duplicate customers' keys over the period of three years. They opened 14 lockers by adopting this unique modus operandi and stole Rs 4.40 crore-worth diamonds," he added.
A case of theft was registered in April last year in D B Marg Police Station by diamond trader Mehul Doshi, who stated that his diamonds worth Rs 1.65 crore deposited in safety locker of the Opera House branch of SBI had been stolen.Initially, local police could not achieve any break-through, so case was closed, Roy said.

 "However, crime branch took up the case as a challenge and began an independent probe. We studied the log book of the bank to analyse the visits of the customers," Roy said.

After studying over 36,000 visits by the customers over the period of three years, police realised that Azmi, Berde (both had hired a locker each in the Opera House branch) and Mehta had frequented the locker room twice a day on several occasions, Roy said.
Posing as clients, investigators approached and befriended Azmi and Mehta. The probe revealed that Azmi, Mehta and their two associates were the culprits.

Elaborating on modus operandi, Roy said that Azmi had first approached Hashmi, who gave him blank keys, which were to be inserted in keyholes of closed lockers to get impression marks.

"It took them over three months to craft a bank's common custodian key, and three months to make duplicate keys of individual lockers. Using these keys, they opened 14 lockers and found diamonds in eight of them," he said.

Berde had hired a locker which was very close to the door of the room, so that he could alert his associates if anyone came in while they were committing the theft, Roy said.
Roy said that the method was unique, and never seen in Mumbai. "I have never come across such modus operandi in my career," he said.