|Saturday, 01 February 2003|
by Ranil Wijayapala
An armed gang yesterday robbed 5.6 million rupees from the Pelawatte branch of the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) which is situated just several hundred meters from the heavily guarded Parliament. Parliament was debating the peace process when the four men armed with T-56 assault rifles entered the bank and emptied the vaults around 11 AM.
Police who had seen the armed men drive past had thought they were members of a politician's security detail and not stopped them. The entire area was surrounded by hundreds of police because of the parliamentary sittings.
The bold robbery netted Rs. 5,674,520 in rupee notes and US, Canadian, and Australian dollar notes. The gang was in possession of three automatic rifles and had threatened the bank manager and the staff forcing them to take the money from the vaults. No injuries were reported.
The whole incident had taken about five minutes Sub Inspector M. Pathirana, OIC Crimes of the Talangama Police told the Daily News. According to eyewitnesses the gang had handled the weapons expertly, and Police believe they may have had training on T-56 rifles.
Police said they arrived within minutes of the gang leaving the building but were unable to catch the White colored Sunny saloon car they were driving.
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