The spirit of Willie Sutton

What do the currency robbery in a train from Salem to Chennai and the $63 million heist in a bitcoin exchange in Hong Kong have to do with bank robber Willie Sutton?


The Salem-Chennai train at Egmore Railway station in Chennai on Wednesday. Photo: AFP
The Salem-Chennai train at Egmore Railway station in Chennai on Wednesday. Photo: AFP

The bank robber Willie Sutton was once asked why he stole money from banks. “That is where the money is,” he is said to have famously quipped. It also led to what is described as Sutton’s Law: Seek the obvious explanations to a problem first.

The currency heist in a moving train carrying cash from Salem to Chennai is movie script material. The thieves went where the money was. That these were soiled notes being moved by the Reserve Bank of India for destruction makes the heist even more ironic for many. The monopoly creator of money was robbed.

But then look at another heist in distant Hong Kong. A bitcoin exchange in the city was hit by a $63 million heist that emptied more than a third of the assets held by digital currency owners who were part of the exchange. The robbers did not cut open the roof of a train carriage. They hacked their way into the computer network where the money was.

The spirit of Sutton is alive in the digital age!

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