By Dhanash Ramroop
Bandits yesterday pulled off a daring daylight robbery outside the Bourda Post Office in Regent Street escaping with some $90 million in pension and other public assistance, reportedly destined for other post offices and abducting a policeman in the process.
According to a police press release, the incident occurred around 8.15 am yesterday. The police said that three men with firearms held up a police escort and the driver of the post office bus on Regent Street, Bourda. The perpetrators took away the policeman’s G3 rifle with 20 rounds, then entered the vehicle and forced the driver to drive away, with the policeman. The men abandoned the vehicle along Cemetery Road, George-town, escaping with the $90 million along with the policeman’s firearm. Investigations are in progress, the release said.
Contacted yesterday officials from the Guyana Post Office Corporation refused to comment, saying that it was now a police matter.
A senior police official told Stabroek News last night that other than the abducted policeman and the driver of the vehicle, no one else has been detained as part of the investigation. The official explained that after the bandits exited the vehicle on Cemetery Road, the driver drove the vehicle to the Brickdam Police Station. It was at this point that he along with the policeman who was also in the vehicle were detained.
According to the official, footage captured by nearby surveillance cameras was being reviewed with the hope that the identities of the unmasked perpetrators would be revealed.
The official said that it is too early to determine whether it was police or postal officials who colluded with the gunmen. “We are hoping that the interrogation of these two will help provide us with some clarity and leads”, another official said while explaining that the breakthrough would be finding the person or persons who provided information that money was being transported.
Police officials told this newspaper that based on the modus operandi of the bandits the attack was well planned, timed and executed. Based on what was gathered by this newspaper some of the bandits were standing across the road apparently awaiting the arrival of the vehicle with the money while at least two were standing inside of the post office compound. Police officials said that it was while a rank was heading into the post office with a worker who was holding the money that the men moved in.
While questions are being raised as to why the security was so lax given the amount of money that was being transported Stabroek News learnt yesterday from persons familiar with the money transfer arrangement that five ranks would usually accompany the postal worker when money is being taken to the various locations. One source said that it was very surprising that yesterday only two ranks were present.
Concerns have also been expressed as to why that amount of money was being transported in one vehicle as opposed to it being split between two or three vehicles.
Meanwhile, a check later on at the Bourda Post Office revealed a long line of senior citizens who were receiving their pensions. It had been reported that a post office employee and a police officer had disembarked the vehicle and entered the post office with money bags minutes before the robbery occurred. Stabroek News was unable to ascertain which post offices were affected by the robbery.
Meanwhile, an eyewitness who frequents the area declared yesterday, “All post office robberies are organized crime.” The man explained that around 8 am he saw four men lurking in the area. Two were standing across the road from the Bourda Post Office, and the two others were standing in the yard. “They look like CID – well dressed,” the man added.
He said the bus came and stopped in front of the post office, facing east towards Orange Walk. A police officer and a staff member with two bags, exited the vehicle and went into the Post Office, he added.
The man explained he would usually see the bus, but it would have two armed police officers, one standing guard at the bus and the other escorting the bags to the post office. This time, he said, he only noticed one policeman. He said the bus driver had the door open and was sitting “in the corner as if he was making space for someone.”
After about five minutes, he said, three of the four men moved towards the bus. The two from across the road approached the driver’s side and the bus door, while one from the yard moved to the gate. They were subsequently joined by the fourth man and they all jumped into the bus, which drove away along Orange Walk.
The man said he did not notice any scuffle, nor did he see any weapons the four men might have had.
One woman who was at the post office was in complete disgust and upset with the police. “The police must know when the first of the month come fuh distribute money, they muss come. Not when de money gone. It overbearing. Every year, every month, every day, we tired of de police,” she stated.
Over the years there have been countless armed robberies at post offices across the country. Yesterday’s haul is the biggest recorded thus far.
Last December, two gunmen stormed the Beterverwagting Post Office and brazenly stole $3 million intended for payments. The daylight robbery occurred around 10am yesterday, a few hours after the post office had opened to the lined-up pensioners.
One bandit reportedly broke the glass with a hammer and demanded the pension money from the postmistress. The men left in a waiting motor car after hurriedly packed their bags with the cash.
A few months earlier in June, bandits struck at the Campbellville post office escaping with $1.3m. On this occasion it was a lone gunman who at approximately 8:35 am entered the Post Office, where he held up the Postmaster and staff, stole the cash, and escaped on a waiting motorbike.
Other post offices that have been targeted by bandits include the New Amsterdam Post Office, Wismar Post Office, Enmore Post Office, Agricola Post Office and Rose Hall Post Office. Some of the locations have been targeted multiple times.
Back in 2009 the Chairman of the Guyana Post Office Corporation (GPOC) Bishop Juan Edghill had expressed worry at the continuing robberies despite enhanced security and had urged vigilance on the part of employees as well as residents.