Mumbai: The robbery at Tribhovandas Bhimji Zaveri still remains one of the most sensational unsolved cases in the history of the Mumbai police.
The incident dates back to March 19, 1987, when 28 so-called probationary CBI officers entered the jewellery shop around 2.15 pm. The mastermind strode straight to owner Pratapbhai Zaveri, introduced himself as Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) officer Mon Singh, and produced a search warrant.
He ordered that the close-circuit camera be shut and that the jeweller surrender his licensed revolver. No telephone calls were allowed as the recruits took samples of ornaments for investigation.
The jeweller was told that the CBI was investigating the quality of gold sold in such shops. One probationer was asked to put up a board at the entrance stating that a raid was on.
The jeweller accompanied Singh and the others as they picked up assorted jewellery before sealing it in packets. Money was also collected from the cash counter and stashed into briefcases.
Forty-five minutes later, Singh asked two men to keep the briefcases in a waiting bus. The rest of the officers were asked to guard the shop as Singh left to 'supervise' another raid.
After waiting for an hour, the 28 men realised something was amiss. The jeweller immediately called the D B Marg police. The only thing the police learnt was that Mon Singh had booked a room at the The Taj Mahal Palace & Tower on March 17.
Meanwhile, Singh got off the bus at The Taj, asked the bell boy to call a taxi, and put the bags inside the vehicle. The taxi headed towards Vile Parle where he was last seen. The booty roughly came up to Rs 35 lakh.
A background check revealed that Singh had inserted a classified advertisement in a leading daily on March 17.
He was seeking replies for the post of 'Security and Intelligence officers.'
Candidates who answered were asked to report to room 415 at The Taj, where he was believed to have been staying. He hired an office at Mittal Towers in Nariman Point when The Taj refused to grant permission to interview candidates. Singh selected 28 candidates and asked them to report near Gateway of India around noon the following day. A bus was hired which headed towards Chowpatty. All candidates were handed identity cards with fake government Ashoka insignia.
Minutes before entering the jewellery shop, they were briefed about the 'mock raid'. Almost 23 years after the daring daylight robbery, the Mumbai police are still clueless about the mysterious conman who knew too well how the intelligence agency functioned.