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KARACHI: Some three armed robbers stormed a private microfinance bank in the old city’s Kharadar area on Tuesday, held security guards and staff at gunpoint and took away more than half a million rupees as the bank management allegedly had not followed the standard operating procedures (SOPs) to prevent such robberies, police said.

The officials added that some three armed men pulled up outside the branch of the private bank on Napier Road just half an hour after the banking hours began. 

Initially, the police said, two of the armed robbers entered the branch after disarming a security guard at the entrance.

As with other past bank robberies in the city, SOPs were not followed, say police

“Another armed man preferred to stay at the entrance most probably to keep an eye on the movement outside the branch. Meanwhile, the two robbers inside the bank collected mobile phones from staff members and cash from the counter,” said Inspector Zafar Iqbal, the SHO of the Kharadar police station. He said the robbers also took away the gun of the security guard.

The total cash looted from the bank was Rs600,000, he said. The inspector added that the robbers hardly took five minutes to complete the job.

“The bank doesn’t keep a huge amount of cash in the branch, as it mainly offers loans against collateral,” said the Kharadar SHO. 

“One of the security guards and a few staffers of the bank have been taken into custody only for questioning,” he added.

This was the sixth bank robbery of the year in Karachi. Besides the half a dozen bank heists, a money changer had been robbed in the Boat Basin area in which the security firm owner was arrested on abetment charges in April. His two guards were found involved in the robbery, which was this year’s biggest heist in Karachi.

The number of bank heists in the metropolis has dropped significantly in the past two years mainly due to proactive policing and ongoing Rangers-led operations, but the off-and-on strikes by bandits remain a challenge for the investigators.

In 2015, five bank branches were looted, 24 in 2014, while 28 banks met the same fate in 2013, 23 in 2012, 19 in 2011, 20 in 2010 and less than 20 in 2009.

Only on July 20, armed robbers took away three million rupees from the Gulshan-i-Iqbal branch of a private bank. 

The police have often blamed the managements of private security companies and banks for not meeting the required standards of security which lead to such incidents.

Meanwhile, Inspector General of Police A.D. Khowaja while taking notice of the bank robbery sought a detailed inquiry report from the DIG police (South).

“The Sindh IGP has also directed the DIG of CIA that evidence should be collected from the crime scene to ensure the early arrest of the robbers, their facilitators and sponsors,” said a statement issued by the Sindh police spokesman.

Published in Dawn, August 2nd, 2017