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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Prosecutors Say Ex-Policeman Led Sberbank Robbery

Prosecutors believe the $1.5 million robbery of a Sberbank branch in Chita was masterminded by a former police officer who not only directed a gang of robbers but killed two bank guards and one of his accomplices.

Police detained the suspect, retired police captain Konstantin Gudkov, last week on suspicion of involvement in the May 12 robbery of 38.69 million rubles, reported Friday.

Chita prosecutors believe Gudkov shot the two guards of the branch, including Vyacheslav Popov, a former OMON commando and suspected accomplice who let the robbers in through a bank window early in the morning.

Gudkov, who served on the Chita police force's organized crime unit, has admitted to killing a fellow robber, Kommersant reported. The body of the suspected robber was found last week in a shallow grave in a forest outside Chita, several meters from the spot where the robbers had hidden some 18 million rubles ($695,000) of the stolen cash. The rest of the cash as well as 9 ounces of gold and 62 ounces of silver bullion taken from the bank remain missing.

Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev praised investigators' efforts Saturday and said 21 police officers from Chita and Moscow as well as other law enforcement officials would receive rewards. It was unclear whether the rewards would come from 5 million rubles ($196,000) that Sberbank has offered for information about the robbery.

There were conflicting reports on how law enforcement officials managed to solve the crime so quickly. Kommersant suggested that detectives had run checks on which of Popov's friends called him on his mobile phone from the area near the bank on the night of the robbery. Kommersant and both speculated that Popov might have left a written confession with his wife.

Police have detained five suspects, including Gudkov.