Sharjah: Five men have been arrested in connection with a daring armed robbery at a money exchange house in Sharjah, police said on Sunday.

The suspects, all Nigerian and aged in their 20s, stole currency worth over Dh2 million during a seven-minute heist at the Al Tauwain branch of Al Ansari Exchange close to midnight on March 20.

The police said they have recovered foreign and Arab currency worth Dh2.3 million from the suspects.

Giving details of the incident at a press conference in Sharjah, Major General Saif Ziri Al Shamsi, Commander-in-chief of Sharjah Police, said, “Four of the suspects entered the exchange and attacked its employees while the fifth was waiting for them in a car outside. The suspects also threatened the employees with sharp weapons before taking away cash. The whole operation took seven minutes.”

Major General Al Shamsi said by the time the police were informed about the incident, the suspects had escaped. The employees failed to activate the alarm to alert the police. The alarm went off four minutes after the raid, which gave the suspects a chance to escape, he noted.

Sharjah Police briefing the media about the robbery. Image Credit: Aghaddir Ali/Gulf News

However, the Sharjah Police managed to catch up with them. Thanks to surveillance camera footage, they were able to identify the faces.

The gang had travelled in a used car which led the police to the first suspect within 48 hours of the crime. As it turned out, the gang members had spread themselves out in other emirates after the robbery to escape notice and had planned to communicate with each other through their Facebook accounts.

But Major General Al Shamsi said the police, which had formed a special team, traced their whereabouts and raided their hideouts in Sharjah, Ajman, Ras Al Khaimah and Abu Dhabi. All the suspects were arrested with the help of the police forces in these emirates.

During the raids, the police recovered the stolen money, besides sharp weapons.

The money recovered from the suspects. Image Credit: Aghaddir Ali/Gulf News

Sharjah Police warned bank and exchange owners to be alert while transporting cash.

Visit Visa

According to police, three of the suspects had resident visas while two of them were on a visit visa. The head of the gang had entered the UAE just two days before the robbery. All the five, who have confessed to the crime, said they intended to leave the country.

Fifteen Nigerians, including four women, were arrested for illegal stay during the search operations. The case has been referred to the public prosecution for further action.

The issue of visit visas without due diligence has now come into sharp focus.

Just last week, Sharjah Police discussed with the concerned authorities mechanisms to prevent the misuse of visas. During the 2019 Economic Sustainability Forum, it was pointed out that many visitors enter the UAE as businessman but take to begging, while some others commit thefts.

Two money exchange staff injured

Rashid Al Ansari, General Manager of Al Ansari Exchange Company, who was also present at the press conference, said the gang members attacked employees of the money exchange who were sitting behind a glass panel.

The suspects smashed the panel with hammers and jumped inside the counter where the money safe box was kept. Two of the exchange staff sustained minor injuries while resisting the suspects.

Although the exchange had closed at 11.30pm, the employees were catering to one customer which was why the main door remained open, giving the suspects easy access.

The Al Tauwain branch is one of Al Ansari’s 185 exchanges in the UAE, including 30 in Sharjah, Al Ansari added.

For UAE residents

The public can reach the police on 999, toll free number Najeed 800151, 065 632 222, via SMS 7999 or e-mail www.shjpolice.gov.ae /najeed.