What would you do if you suddenly got your hands on Rs 22.5 crore?
Pradeep Shukla drank himself silly, treating himself to a bottle of Magic Moments vodka — a brand he’d always coveted but could never afford. He also turned into a heavy tipper, throwing big bills at complete strangers.
When the police found him early Friday morning in a godown in the Okhla Industrial Area, the man behind Delhi’s biggest heist was fast asleep, surrounded by nine box-fulls of the cash he’d stolen from a van transporting money to refill Axis Bank ATMs.
The 40-year-old’s joy at his sudden wealth lasted just 12 hours. But he spent those hours feeling like a king, he reportedly told the police, still nursing a hangover.
The bill for his adventures came to Rs 10,500 — Rs 500 shy of his monthly salary as a driver for cash replenishment agency SIS. Shukla had left for work on Thursday with less than Rs 200 in his pocket.
At around 5pm, while making a round of ATMs in southeast Delhi, he made off with the van containing Rs 22.5 crore in cash when the guard accompanying him stopped for a toilet break.
The first thing Shukla did was stash the loot in the warehouse, he told the police. This he did with the help of three men, each of whom he paid Rs 500. He also ditched the now empty cash van somewhere in the neighbourhood.
“Shukla knew the caretaker of the godown and asked him for shelter for the night. The caretaker had no involvement in the crime,” police sources said.
Next off, he headed to a wine and beer shop and bought himself a celebratory bottle of Magic Moments, picking it up without even looking at its price.
By this time, several police teams had fanned across the city and his name.
“He had entered a liquor shop selling imported brands for the first time in his life. After buying the vodka, he went to a nearby dhaba and bought some chicken. The bill came up to less than Rs 500 but he paid the baffled owner Rs 2,500,” said a senior police officer.
Feeling rich, he stopped four passersby and gave them Rs 1,000 each. “Some people refused the money thinking he was mad or the money was fake but he insisted they keep it and enjoy themselves. He said he wanted to be generous,” said the officer, adding that the police had recovered the stolen money.
Despite his arrest, police said,that Shulka maintained Thursday was the most exciting night of his life.