At first, police thought the men holed up in a provincial Cambodian bank were holding hostages. Then it became apparent they were drug addicts. Finally, they concluded that it was all an amateurish inside job to rip off the tills.
The scheme to rob a small village branch of Cambodia’s largest bank, Acleda, fell to pieces earlier this week when police surrounded the building after receiving an anonymous tip-off and later speaking to a ‘hostage’ who claimed to have escaped.
Believing they had the lives of bank employees to negotiate for, and that they were dealing with an armed crew of drug addicts, police began offering whatever the men wanted in exchange for good will. What they wanted, local reports said, was crystal meth. Police delivered it, and ordered more to be driven up from the capital, Phnom Penh, a three-hour ride away from the branch in the south-eastern province Kampong Cham. Just after 10pm, the men pretending to be hostage-takers fled on motorbikes provided by police but were later arrested.
“There were around 20 police and military officers from Kampong Cham and Phnom Penh banded together,” Chhay Kimson, the provincial police chief, told The Independent. “It took almost 18 hours to crack this case.”
Meanwhile, the police started to doubt the story of the man who got away and another employee. Under questioning, the escaped man allegedly told them that he was part of a plot to rob the bank.
“They pretended like this because they want to take Acleda’s money and turn this into a kidnap case,” Kimson said. “We’ve had robberies which have happened a few times over the past three months in Kampong Cham province, but in the case of the Acleda robbery, this is the first time I’ve heard of this in my life.”
Acleda President and CEO In Channy said the attempted heist – on a bank that was holding no more than $17,000 – was “a very strange” event.
Channy said that of the five suspects – a sixth man was arrested in connection with the case on Thursday – one was a cashier, two were loan officers and the others were security guards.