3 suspects arrested for digging 100-foot tunnel into India bank vault

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It reads like a movie, but the arrests of three men-- accused of digging a 100-foot tunnel from a residential home to the inside of a bank vault in India-- are very real.

The intrepid thieves made off with cash, jewelry and other valuables worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, from a branch of the Punjab National Bank in the state of Haryana last week.

Police say the owner of the home where the tunnel originated planned the heist. He was found dead in his car, after an apparent suicide by poison, the BBC reported.

"The owner was the mastermind of the robbery. He gave the idea to the three men, who executed the task. He was also a co-accused in the case on charges of criminal conspiracy," police officer Arun Nehra said.

Cops are also seeking a fifth suspect in the robbery.

Nearly a thousand dollars in cash and 24kg of gold and silver jewelry were recovered from the three suspects, police official AK Rao told the Press Trust of India news agency.

Bank officials at the government-owned bank were shocked when they discovered the giant hole in the ground last Monday morning. Bank manager Devender Malik opened the vault to find at least 77 lockers broken into and cash and jewelry missing, the Times of India reported.

The three men - a farmer, a medical laboratory worker, and a property dealer - live in the same area as the bank. Police say none of the men had a criminal record, which has led to questions about how inexperienced criminals could pull off such an elaborate scheme.

The thieves reportedly worked for 40 days-- using iron rods and spades-- to dig the tunnel, and managed to avoid damaging telephone cables and water lines in the process. Its circumference measured 2.5 feet around.

While some vaults have at least a foot of concrete and a thick iron sheet protecting them, this one had an ordinary floor, easily penetrated by the burglars.

The suspects may have been inspired by a popular Bollywood film called, “Dhoom,” about a similar robbery.