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Wednesday August 27, 2008

Robbers grab the wrong bag

GEORGE TOWN: Armed men shot a moneychanger, grabbed two bags on an airport trolley but missed RM1.9mil in another suitcase in a botched robbery at the Penang International Airport yesterday.

The robbers, two of whom were armed with automatic pistols, fired more than 10 shots, hitting the moneychanger, who was unidentified, in the ear and shoulder.

One of the shots also shattered a panel of the automatic glass door of the airport entrance.

The glass door at the airport entrance was shattered by gunfire from the robbers.

The incident occurred at about 9.30am when the moneychanger was about to receive a bag containing notes in American and Singapore dollars, British pounds and EU euros from a security guard hired to transport the cash in an armoured vehicle outside the airport entrance.

Central Seberang Prai spokesman Supt Shaharon Anuar Abdul Latif said that three masked robbers alighted from a black Toyota Harrier and dashed towards the moneychanger as he came up to security guard Zainol Othman, who escorted the money, at Door 1.

The moneybag was still in the armoured vehicle when the robbers struck.

It is learnt the moneychanger was on his way to board a flight at 10.25am to deliver the cash consignment to his counterpart at Changi Airport in Singapore.

Zainol, 43, told The Star that he grabbed the moneybag inside the armoured car and fled when he heard the gunshots.

The police forensics team gathering evidence from the armoured vehicle.

“I knew it was a robbery. The first thought that came to mind was to save the money.”

He said he hid behind the armoured vehicle for a while but decided to run to the side of the airport main building some 50m away when he saw one of the armed robbers heading towards him.

“In the midst of the commotion, the robbers grabbed the moneychanger’s bags, thinking that I had already placed the moneybag onto the trolley,” he said.

The three robbers, with an accomplice waiting in the getaway vehicle, sped off with the bags, one of which contained the moneychanger’s clothing.

The moneychanger was sent to Penang Hospital where surgeons operated to remove the slugs. Doctors said his condition was stable.

The gunshots sent the public and airport staff, who were standing at the other entrances, running for cover.

Zainol, who was armed with a revolver, said he did not draw his pistol to fight the robbers as “there were too many people at the airport entrance and I was worried I might hit somebody”.

“I was not scared during the robbery but I think I must be lucky to be alive,” he added.

Police said they found the getaway car at a newly-completed housing project in Sungai Tiram, a stone's throw from the airport, 10 minutes after the robbery.

They believe the robbers abandoned the vehicle and switched to another car.

Supt Shaharon said they recovered nine 9mm automatic pistol casings at the scene.

“We are also looking at the airport’s CCTV recording to identify the robbers,” he said.

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