December 2023 \ Diaspora News \ Diaspora News

Wellington: Armed robbers raided an Indian restaurant in New Zealand’s Auckland city and fled with cash after injuring a worker and threatening others, a media report said. Police reached Mithaiwala, a vegetarian restaurant located on the intersection of Mt Albert and Sandringham road after reports of an aggravated robbery in November, The New Zealand Herald newspaper reported.

Two people entered the premises with a firearm and threatened staff members inside the restaurant, a police spokesperson said, adding that they took “a quantity of cash before fleeing in a vehicle”. The report did not specify the amount taken away by the robbers. “Thankfully, no injuries have been reported to those staff members, however they are understandably shaken, and police are providing support,” the police spokesperson said.

A worker hanging fairy lights outside the restaurant was injured but it was not serious. “My back hurt a little but I am okay now,” he told The New Zealand Herald. He said three men tried to get in the back of the store, hitting and injuring his back in the process.

Also in November, an 18-year-old was sentenced to more than three years in jail in Hamilton for his role in robbing and attacking Nitin Patel, a dairy store owner, repeatedly with a metal bar, leaving him with a permanent leg injury. Incidents of crime and robbery have continued in New Zealand after 34 year-old Indian dairy worker Janak Patel was brutally stabbed to death in 2022 by robbers in Sandringham.

Nicholas Tumanako was among four robbers who targeted Nitin Patel’s store in Hamilton on July 6, and fled with NZ$300 cash and cigarettes after kicking and punching the victim multiple times, the New Zealand Herald newspaper reported.

Tumanako pleaded guilty to two charges of motor vehicle conversion and one of aggravated robbery at the Hamilton District Court in November. The court heard that Patel was on the phone on the afternoon of July 6 when three armed men jumped out of a stolen car and stormed the Silverdale Superette in Hamilton. While one of the robbers whacked Patel with a metal bar several times, the other jumped over the counter. Tumanako ran in wielding an axe and smashed it down on the counter before dropping it, running out the back then returning and picking up dropped coins off the floor. The group ripped out the till and stole cigarettes before running out and again attacking Patel with a metal bar.

Thereafter, the driver of the stolen car got out and kicked Patel in the head and punched him before fleeing with the three robbers with NZ$300 cash and an unknown quantity of cigarettes. Appearing in defence of his client, counsel Kaleb Whyte told the court that although Tumanako had an axe, he only used it to strike the counter and then immediately dropped it, not to use it again. The violence involved in the robbery was “immediately acknowledged” by his client who was genuinely remorseful.

Judge Philip Crayton said Patel was not in the best of health before the attack and now he had been left with a debilitating leg injury from the armed robbery, and his business had suffered financially. “This involved a serious assault. This was violence which plainly was gratuitous. It was over and above what could possibly have been necessary to carry out the offence against this person,” Judge Crayton was quoted as saying in The Herald.

While Patel continues to work, his son said that his father could no longer lift anything heavy or run after the attack, and needs help to get up if he sits or lies down. Patel said he is not scared of the robbers but fears for the safety of his young family members who might be working in the store in future.

In June 2023, a group of dairy store owners, mostly of Indian descent, presented a petition signed by 34,000 people to the New Zealand Parliament, calling for government action.

The petitioners called on the government to take a harder stance on crime, with more police presence on the streets, legal penalties for parents of youth offenders, and stronger punishments for teenagers who were offending.

Tags: New Zealand