Vinod Asrani, alias Vinod Chembur, the cricket bookie-turned-real estate developer from Chembur, who was arrested by the crime branch on Saturday in connection with the murder of senior journalist J Dey, is emerging as a key player in the murder conspiracy.
The police also suspect that Chembur was instrumental in filling Rajan’s ears against Dey. “We are almost 80% sure of the motive,” Roy said.
Joint commissioner of police, crime, Himanshu Roy said on Monday that Chembur, a key mafia manager for underworld don Chhota Rajan in Mumbai, appeared to have a fair knowledge about the assassination. “The fact that he had called Dey to hotel Uma Palace at Mulund (on June 7) to identify the journalist to the shooters, speaks volumes about his knowledge,” Roy added.
Roy said Vinod had invited Dey and another journalist to the hotel on June 7. “He spoke to the journalist and Dey separately and also told the former to invite Dey for the meeting,” Roy added. The journalist had picked up Dey from Powai (not at Dey’s residence) in a car at around 10.30pm. Vinod, who played the host, was waiting along with two more people (sources said one of them was a medical practitioner known to Vinod) in the hotel.
Two of the assassins (already arrested) — Anil Waghnmode and Arun Doke — who had been deputed by Satish Kalia (another arrested shooter) stood outside the hotel and spotted Dey. “Anil, who had earlier conducted a recee at Peninsula Centre (where Dey’s office is located) could not spot Dey clearly. But this time he got a clear picture of the target,” Roy added.
Dey and his journalist friend stayed at the hotel for two hours. “Even Dey’s wife had stated in her statement earlier that he appeared tensed after returning home that night,” Roy said. The police were trying to ascertain what transpired during the meeting.
Roy said the journalist, who had accompanied Dey, recorded his statement on Monday. Sources, meanwhile, said the police are trying to retrieve the CCTV footage inside the hotel and record the statement of the two other guests.