DUBAI // Money exchange staff spoke of their terror yesterday when two masked men armed with a pistol stole Dh1 million in less than 30 seconds in an audacious daylight raid.
The men burst into the Motor City branch of Redha Al Ansari at about 2pm on Sunday and screamed at the employees to stand aside. One trained the pistol on staff while the other ransacked the office.
The robbers fled with all the cash from the exchange tills and a folder containing large sums in foreign currency.
“I was terrified. I’ve never been robbed or seen a gun before, and this man was pointing one at me and yelling but I couldn’t understand what he was saying,” a counter assistant said.
Within five minutes of the heist 243 police officers had been deployed to hunt down the robbers. Last night police were questioning two men in connection with the robbery.
Officers took less than two hours to identify an address in Bur Dubai where they believed the robbers were hiding.
“They were about to celebrate their victory – they did not know that they had been tracked,” said Lt Col Ahmed Al Merri of the criminal investigations department at Dubai Police.
He said the police waited for the men to step outside as “we were afraid of an armed confrontation”. The officers then arrested them and recovered the stolen money.
The two men being questioned are described as of Arab origin but from an unspecified European country, and aged from their mid-twenties to early thirties.
Lt Col Al Merri said one of the men works at a private company in Dubai and the other had recently arrived on a visit visa. He said the second man had a record for “similar crimes in Europe” and police suspected he had come to the UAE with the sole intent of carrying out the robbery.
A third man might also be involved, according to an eye witness. “I saw two masked men enter a silver saloon and the car sped off immediately, I think there was a driver waiting in the car,” said Nikhil Singh, area manager for Life pharmacy.
Mr Singh was on a routine visit to the branch next door to the exchange when he heard the alarm go off. “I wasn’t very concerned when I heard the alarm, it was only when I saw people running that I thought it might be a fire or something.”
As he got to the door of the pharmacy he saw the men entering the car. “They wore black cloth masks and dark clothes and were of average height and build. It all happened in a matter of seconds, the car was parked in the middle of the street and as soon as they got in, it made a U-turn at the lights and sped off towards Abu Dhabi.
“Until then I never thought that anything like this could happen here, Dubai is totally safe, this is very unusual.”
Many of the neighbouring shops did not realise a robbery was taking place, and ignored the alarm in the belief it was a fire drill.