Where are the SBV heist millions?
Pietermaritzburg - The two kingpins of the R31.4 million SBV heist in August 1996 are expected to be released on day parole from Westville Prison on Monday – closing a chapter on one of the country’s biggest and most daring bank robberies.
But while former SBV guards Colin Nayagar, 53, and Perumal Soobramoney Naidoo, 52, are just days away from freedom, the mystery of the missing millions lingers.
Just R5m in cash was recovered after the robbery, but a further R12 million was added to the kitty after the various robbers’ assets – properties, vehicles and jewellery – were seized.
But R14.4 million remains unaccounted for.
Clive Gounden, a former SBV employee, whose 20-year-sentence for the R31.4m robbery was set aside by the Supreme Court of Appeal in 2003, said: “It seems the money has evaporated. Nobody seems to know what happened to the cash.”
At the time, however, Gounden’s 23-year-sentence for a later R7.4m robbery was confirmed by the same court.
Gounden, released from Westville Prison five years ago, believes the two men know they have no chance of getting their share of the loot.
“I would expect them to ask around to find out what happened to the money. Some of the people who were supposed to be close friends have vanished,” he told POST.
In a previous interview, he claimed that while the robbery was executed with precision, very little planning went into stashing the cash.
Some members of the 19-member gang buried their share on the grounds of a South Coast hotel. When they dug it up years later, the cash was “rotten” – water had seeped in and destroyed the notes.
“Nayagar and Naidoo will walk out of jail being given limited freedom in terms of their day parole. But all their efforts were for nothing. Neither man is expecting anything. They have to start all over again.”
The two – the last of eight incarcerated SBV robbers – were jailed for 25 years for the R31.4m heist at the SBV depot in Westmead, Pinetown, as well as 23 years for the R7.4m SBV robbery in Queensburgh in 1998.
In all, 10 people were convicted.
The heist loosely inspired a crime thriller by Durban author Naresh Veeran, 31 Million Reasons, and was made into a controversial movie of that name.
Nayagar’s brother Tony, 60, of Overport, told POST that his imminent release was like a dream. He said his family would meet this weekend to plan a home-coming party.
“It will be appropriate time to prepare the curries and other meals which he sorely missed since he was arrested (on September 30, 1998). With Christmas around the corner it is nice to know that my dear brother will be home for the first time in 17 years.
“Colin and I have shared a close relationship. Before he was incarcerated he stood with me in my darkest hours. Over the years I stood with him through thick and thin as well.”
Naidoo’s family, apart from confirming that he too would be set free next Monday, declined to comment.
While there have been numerous theories as to who spilled the beans leading to the arrest of eight people, including three SBV employees and former policemen, Gounden said the wheels started to come off when an ex police captain, Pradesh Singh, was sentenced to 25 years after he pleaded guilty for his role in the R7.4m robbery.
“Pradesh ratted on us for the R7.4m robbery and also gave police inside information on the R31.4m.
“Although he was not involved in the R31.4m robbery, he heard how the heist was orchestrated and executed.
“That was sweet music to the ears of the investigating officers. After Pradesh began serving his sentence, arrests in the R31.4m heist happened quickly,” Gounden said.
“I remember the phone call I got from the investigating officer on September 30, 1998 as though it was yesterday. The policeman made three calls – to me, Colin and Perumal. He said he was at the Pinetown police station and asked us to hand ourselves over. Before we left for the station we phoned our attorney. The rest is history.”
Gounden said he had turned his life around long before he was released five years ago.
“I have left the past behind me. I work at an engineering firm in Pinetown. My boss, Nandha Moodley, has given me and other ex-prisoners employed at his firm a second chance.
“I am also a motivational speaker. Over the years I have spoken at schools and functions organised by private and community organisations, saying that crime does not pay.”
Could there be yet another multi-million robbery? Gounden was asked.
“You can get to the bottom of the sea. But you cannot say what is in a man’s mind,” he replied.
He said there was one big lesson that came out from the R31.4m robbery: “There is no honour among thieves.”
It seems that Nayagar and Naidoo are about to find that out for themselves.