Bandits raid NIS with machine guns, grenades
- $13M stolen in well-planned operation

By Desiree Jodah
Stabroek News
January 11, 2000

Bandits armed with machine guns and grenades plundered the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) on Brickdam of $13 million yesterday morning leaving in their wake traumatised employees and pensioners.

No shots were fired in the clinically executed operation and up to last night the police had made no arrests in their hunt for the well-dressed bandits.

A police press release yesterday said a man armed with a firearm and two grenades in a briefcase entered the office building and held up an accounts clerk who handed over an estimated $13M in cash.

According to the release, an alarm was raised and the police constabulary guard on duty outside responded but he was held up by an armed accomplice of the robbers. The two men, the police said, escaped in a waiting car PGG 6750 driven by a third man. Police said the registration number appears to be false.

A police source told Stabroek News the licence number is that of a different type of vehicle which is registered to a West Demerara resident.

There are conflicting reports as to how the stick up occurred. General Manager Patrick Martinborough told Stabroek News that at about 0715 hrs two men heavily armed with guns and grenades entered the NIS office on the bottom flat where pensioners were waiting for their money. He said one bandit threatened the cashier who was about to enter her booth at the southern end of the building with a gun and ordered her to hand over the money. The man placed the money into bags and casually walked out of the building. He said the entire incident lasted around eight to ten minutes.

An eyewitness said another bandit who had been sitting among pensioners at the northern side of the building joined the others and calmly walked out of the compound, got into what was described as a "shiny brown" car with a black stripe which was parked opposite the NIS building and escaped.

June Perez, one of the two cashier who was on duty at the time of the incident told Stabroek News that one of the bandits who had a handgun and a grenade in his hands said "this is a stick up." She said he then told the internal security guard to lie on the floor. Perez said at first the security personnel was hesitant, but she encouraged him to comply with the bandit's request.

Cashier Patricia Toney was then ordered by the armed bandit to hand over the cash. She reportedly passed a bag of money she had at the time but the bandits demanded that she open the safe and turn over all the money. One of the men was dressed in a white shirt-jac and black pants, while the other wore blue jeans and a blue shirt-jac. A charwoman recalled entering the building, not knowing what was happening. She said she saw the internal security guard lying on the floor. The woman related that the man told her that thieves were in the building and that she should get out. The woman said she ran to the security guards at the gate and told them bandits were inside. According to her, the guards became confused and she ran to the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company a short distance away and called the cops.

While the robbery was taking place in full view of a large number of pensioners who had gathered in that section of the building, others in another part were not aware of what was happening. After the men left, shouts of "thief, thief" were heard from the frightened people.

The daring bandits who were reportedly not masked during the robbery, had their faces covered when they left the building. They left in their wake frightened and shaking pensioners who were later advised to go to the NIS Camp Street branch for payments.

However, many expressed fear that the bandits might attack that location as well and opted to go home instead.

The NIS General Manager said payments would resume today at the Brickdam office.

Angry pensioners frustrated at not being able to obtain their money blamed the lack of adequate security for the loss, and many opined that it was an "inside job."

Martinborough speaking with journalists after the robbery yesterday said, the NIS would be looking at beefing up security especially on the days when pensioners are to be paid. He said only the guard at the gate is armed. According to the NIS General Manager, the internal security are not armed and are used more for maintaining order. Observers said it appeared that the bandits knew the payment routine at the NIS office and were familiar with its layout and the whereabouts of the money.

Meanwhile, police conducted searches in the Albouystown and Tucville areas yesterday following the robbery. No arrests were made.

Just over three months ago, bandits in a chilling mid-morning heist on America Street led police in a chase to the canefields at the back of Mocha. One of the bandits was killed but not before they had covered their escape in withering gun fire, injuring several people in the process.

Linden London known as `Blackie', who is wanted by the police, was believed to have planned and staged the daring robbery of a cambio dealer along with three others.

The men who were cornered in the canefields escaped although the police with the help of the Guyana Defence Force had cordoned off the area. Two men have since been charged and are before the court. London, an ex-GDF special force member has eluded the police.

Bandit pretended to be pensioner

Armed bandits who robbed the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) of $13M yesterday scared the daylights out of pensioners.

When Stabroek News arrived at the scene a few minutes after the incident, shaking and confused pensioners were being herded out of the building.

Two of them said they were sitting in the northern section of the building downstairs when a man with a plaster on one side of his face, a large bag in his hand and walking with a limp came inside and sat on the bench among them. One pensioner said the man was unmasked and sat opposite her. The other pensioner said that after they sat for a while she wanted to ask the man if he had an abscess on his face but thought better of it. According to the two women, they suddenly saw a man walk by with some bags in his hand and shouted to the man with the plaster on his face to "take out the big gun". They said that the man then jumped up and opened the bag and took a "big" gun out. They said he joined the other man and coolly walked out of the compound.

Some pensioners had been waiting from very early in the morning for the office to open. They said they were allowed inside at about 0700 hrs and they sat in two sections of the office. One pensioner who was sitting at the back said he did not realise what was going on.

Another pensioner said as she was going into the compound the two bandits walked casually past her, got into the car manned by an accomplice and drove away.

$1M reward offered

The Guyana Police Force is offering a $1 million reward for information leading to the arrest of the three bandits involved in the National Insurance Scheme robbery yesterday morning.

A reward of $300,000 is offered for information leading to the arrest of any single member of the three-man gang.

Persons who may have information are asked to contact the police on telephone numbers 56411, 67530, 61326, 53650, 66978, 67065, 72128, 69941, 52227, 51111, 62487 and 62488.

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples