ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Early Wednesday, Sulaimani security forces arrested the group of gunmen who, a day earlier, reportedly stole close to $1.35 million USD in government salaries.
The city’s security forces coordinated “in finding the offenders and retrieving the money and salary of Shar Hospital employees,” the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Minister of Finance, Rebaz Hamlan, wrote on his Facebook.
Around Tuesday noon, a group of armed men—reportedly four—had set up an ambush for a van that was to transport the large sum of money from a local bank to the hospital in question. As the van made its way over, the culprits attacked the vehicle, prompting the van’s driver to come to a halt.
Initial reports quoting police sources claimed the amount of money had been close to $1.5 million USDs, but an official from the hospital later stated the amount was 1.628 billion Iraqi dinars, close to $1.35 million USDs.
The driver and passengers of the official vehicle were forced out of the van and the robbers took off with it. They then dumped the van near a cemetery southeast of the city and unloaded the cash onto a Nissan Patrol and Nissan Cedric of their own.
The government vehicle is believed to have had no security forces guarding it, leaving it open to the brazen, broad-daylight robbery.
“I hope, while transporting any sum of money from the bank, the region’s departments coordinate with security forces beforehand,” Hamlan said.
The Sulaimani Police Director during a press conference said there were seven persons in total involved in the robbery, all of whom were arrested “in and around” the city, meaning a number of them were attempting to leave Sulaimani to escape the authorities.
The incident comes days after the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), to the delight of public servants across the region, announced the end of austerity measures that saw government salaries slashed for the past few years.
The police chief also said that the money would be transported to the hospital immediately to be distributed to the employees.
Editing by Nadia Riva