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Thieves Tunnel Into Indian Bank Vault — From Across The Street

When a branch of Punjab National Bank in northern India opened for business Monday, the staff was surprised to find it had been robbed, the strongroom breached from underground by thieves who had dug a tunnel from an empty building some 125 feet away. They had plundered about a quarter of the room's 360 secure lockers before making their getaway.

The thieves took more than $80,000 in cash along with contents of the customers' lockers, the bank says. It's not yet known exactly how much was taken, but authorities are asking the bank's clients to detail what they'd been keeping at the bank.

The tunnel heist took place in Gohana, about two hours' drive northwest of New Delhi. Police say the crime could have been committed anytime between Saturday evening and Monday morning, and that the job could have been weeks in the making. Indian media are reporting it could be the biggest theft of its kind.

From NDTV:

"Two rooms in the building where the tunnel was dug from are filled with earth and windows are covered with cardboard to hide the digging activities.

"The tunnel led right into the strong room secured by metal bars. It was completely ransacked. Grim-faced bank employees were seen assessing the damage."

And the Times of India adds, "Unlike other places where strongrooms and locker rooms have at least one feet of concrete covered with a thick iron sheet, this one had an ordinary floor which was easily punctured by the burglars."

If all of this sounds like it could have been taken from a Hollywood heist thriller, you're not far off. As OneIndia News tells us, thieves who were caught after pulling off a similar job in 2007 said they had been inspired by a plot in Bollywood's Dhoom series of action films, which features outlandish stunts and motorcycle chases.

We couldn't find that scene — but here's the trailer from the most recent movie in the series, shot partly in Chicago:

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.