Bandits invade West Coast store, escape with millions

- getaway driver held

Seven months after a fire ravaged Saver’s Choice Bargain Centre at Meten-Meer-Zorg, West Coast Demerara bandits invaded the store on Sunday evening, holding manager Jaiprakash Basdeo and staff at gunpoint and escaping with millions.

Basdeo, who said Saver’s Choice Bargain Centre, was his brother’s store which he was managing as his brother was overseas, was attacked by two armed robbers, who stole over $3 million in cash, electronics and jewellery. Police responded promptly and the man who is suspected to have been the driver of the getaway car was arrested.

Basdeo, 35, told Stabroek News that the attack occurred around 7:30, while he and three workers were closing the store. The still shaken man said the first of the two perpetrators entered the shop to purchase a phone card. He then exited and returned about two minutes after to make another purchase of the same item.

According to Basdeo, as he was about to sell the man, another man entered the store and drew a gun. The gunman pointed the weapon at his neck and instructed him to stay quiet, while directing a salesgirl – who was a few feet away – to draw nearer to the two of them.

At this point, the ‘customer’ then “scramble me and pull off me chain, me band, and me wedding ring,” after which he jumped over the counter and demanded cash.

“I refuse and then he start to cuff me up and I chuck he and the [next] one said, ‘Like you want I kill you, you playing you mannish.’ And the one over the counter pull out a ten inch blade, so I pull out the drawer and he tek all de money,” he said, while recounting that the money in the drawer totalled $320,000. He estimated his jewellery to be worth $880,000.

While one of the attackers held up two employees, Basdeo said the other “put the blade to me side and cyar me round the back.” He was relieved of a Samsung cellular phone, valued at US$550, as well as TT$200, CDN$20 and BD$20. He was then dealt “bout five more cuff,” after which the bandit pushed him into a corner and threw about six to eight fans over him.

Before making their escape, the bandits cleared the contents of a glass case that contained $1.5 million in BlackBerry and other mobile phones, grabbed two laptop computers and a DVR player which was installed into the security camera. Basdeo said they also ensured they destroyed the monitor and other parts of the camera, and then escaped with their loot into a silver car, with licence plate number PMM 317, which had been parked a few corners away.

Basdeo made an attempt to follow the robbers, but he was unsuccessful. In a statement, police said yesterday that there was a prompt response to the report, which resulted in the interception of a motor car, suspected to be the getaway vehicle, at Vergenoegen, East Bank Essequibo.

The driver was arrested and he is currently assisting with the investigation. Basdeo sung the praises of the police for their quick action.

The business suffered major losses when an early morning fire, on March 29 of this year, believed to be electrical in origin, ravaged the original building that housed the Saver’s Choice Bargain Centre. Six weeks following the fire the store was back in business, but suffered a burglary.

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