Behind break-in at Gujarat governor’s home, a household that stole collectively

NOIDA: The pursuit of burglars behind the break-in at Om Prakash Kohli’s house in Noida has led police to an unlikely gang — a family of three that includes a father-son duo and the older man’s sister.
The trio, given the nature of their exploits, had included in their otherwise close-knit team a goldsmith who could evaluate and sell the bounty. The kinship between the three also made their cover story look more real: Sharif (45), Arsalam (23) and Farzana (35) would look out for locked houses, go repeatedly on recces before making their move, and say they were relatives of the family that lived in the house if asked.

They rode in and out of a neighbourhood on scooters, a modus operandi they had used on March 31 as well when they broke into the governor’s locked Sector 50 bungalow and walked out armed with gold and silver jewellery and other valuables. This time, though, the target they had chosen brought the police’s attention on them and their cover was blown in less than a week. Police said they suspected the trio was involved in several similar thefts across NCR.

Sharif, his son Arsalam and sister Farzana, originally residents of Moradabad, were picked up from a “hideout” in Noida’s Kendriya Vihar on Friday night, police said. The goldsmith, 50-year-old Gautam Sehgal, and an accomplice Fahim were also arrested. Police said they were looking for a Delhi-based blacksmith who provided the tools the gang used for break-ins. Sehgal operated from Khoda Colony, the huge settlement off the NH-24 in Ghaziabad.

Also on the radar is Roshan Jahan, Sharif’s sister-in-law, who was spotted on CCTV footage of a last year fleeing with him on a scooter.

Sharif, who police said was wanted in 26 criminal cases over the past seven years, had significantly improved his lifestyle after the burglaries. He had apparently used the stolen money to buy a house for Rs 50 lakh and marry off his two daughters.

The items seized from the gang included a Pakistan-made revolver that had allegedly been stolen from the house of Major General BK Bhatia (retd) in Sector 49 in October last year.

Bhatia had lodged a police complaint and claimed he had got the gun from the ordnance factory in Jabalpur. The police also recovered half a kilo of gold, 2.5kg silver, two country-made pistols, two cartridges and Rs 39,000 in cash.

Pal Sharma said Sharif, his son and sister had raided Kohli’s house on March 31 when his daughter Ritu, who lives there, had gone to Ambala for a few days. The police found a link between the burglaries at Kohli’s house and that at Maj Gen Bhatia’s place last year as the modus operandi was similar. The cops soon discovered several thefts across NCR had been conducted in a similar manner.

Information pieced together from CCTV footage and neighbours revealed the trio had a fair idea of the locality they raided. CCTV clips sourced from the retired armyman’s house showed Sharif and Jahan fleeing on a scooter after the burglary. Sharif is believed to have told the cops he planned all the burglaries and executed them too. “The tools they used can easily open any lock,” an officer said.

Asked about the Pakistan-made gun stolen from his house, Bhatia said there was a provision for army personnel to get weapons seized during wars with the neighbouring country. “A month before I retired, I had applied for a weapon at the army headquarters through an official procedure. The central ordinance depot in Jabalpur issued me the Pakistan-made revolver,” he said.

It was not clear when the gun had been seized by the army.

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