CB-CID solves mystery of Salem train heist with NASA help


File photo of police officials checking out the hole made on the Salem train coach roof.

Chennai: At last, after two years, a special team of CB-CID has cracked the mysterious train robbery of Rs 5.75 crore, belonging to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), from a Salem-Chennai Egmore Express by cutting an opening on the roof in May 2016.

The investigation team has come to a conclusion that a notorious gang from Madhya Pradesh and Bihar carried out the heist with the help of an insider. The investigation was led by North Zone Superintendent of Police Praveen Kumar.

According to sources, “It is only a matter of time before the suspects are arrested.”

A team of police is already in Madhya Pradesh conducting an inquiry with 11 suspects. They are said to be contract labourers and repeat offenders.


In what probably would be the first time in Tamilnadu police history, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the US was involved in cracking the case.

According to sources, the CB-CID sought the help of the Union Home Ministry that appealed to NASA to send satellite images of train route on the day of the crime. This move indeed came in handy in solving the case.

Based on the satellite images shared by NASA, circumstantial evidence, eye-witnesses and technical support, more than 100 phone calls were traced on the train route, which eventually led to the narrowing down on the 11 prime suspects.

Further inquiries revealed that the notorious gang was involved in several crimes in north India. The CB-CID for months tracked the mobile phones that were active at the scene of crime.

File photo of the hole on the roof.


The police team believed that the roof was not broke open when the train was moving. If that had been the case, then there would have been more fingerprints and footmarks on the train. But the imprints on the roof of the train are minimal, indicating that the heist took place when the train was not moving.


The police also believe that an insider who knew about the cash transportation passed on the information. During investigation, police kept a watch on places where the soiled or old currency notes could be sold or hidden.

In May 2016, RBI was transporting soiled and mutilated currency notes amounting to Rs 342 crore from Salem to Chennai in three special coaches of the train.

The robbery was noticed only after RBI officials opened the coaches. The currency notes were kept in 226 boxes and the robbers entered by making a 2×2-foot opening on top of the coach. This was something which baffled the investigators as heavy machinery was required to do it.

The robbers tampered with four boxes and currency notes were strewn around. They emptied one full box of currency with larger denominations; another box was partially robbed and two other boxes were opened and teh currency untouched, reports said.


* On 8 August 2016, a huge consignment worth Rs 342 crore was being transported by RBI Salem to Chennai by train.
* Robbers gained entry into the train coach by drilling a hole on its roof and took away Rs 5.75 crore.
* The theft was detected by RBI and Railway staff nearly seven hours after the Salem-Chennai Express reached Egmore Railway Station.
* After initial rounds of investigations, the case was transferred from Government Railway Police to a special team of CB-CID.
* The CB-CID team interrogated over 2,000 persons, including railway staff, police personnel, caterers and employees of the private parcel company for leads.

Naomi N