The crime branch on Sunday arrested bookie-turned-real estate developer and close associate of fugitive underworld don Chhota Rajan, Vinod Asrani alias Vinod Chembur, 57, for his alleged involvement in the murder of senior crime journalist J Dey. Dey was shot dead by four unidentified motorcycle-borne men at Powai on June 11. The police had last week arrested the seven killers, alleged deputed by Rajan.
Following the shootout, Vinod had fled to Delhi, sources said. The police had probed another Rajan aide, DK Rao on Saturday, which provided important leads on Vinod’s involvement in Dey’s murder. He was apprehended at the city airport late on Saturday night.
With his arrest, the police have inched closer towards establishing the much anticipated motive behind the Dey’s murder. “We have arrested Vinod Chembur. He was actively involved in the criminal conspiracy that had been hatched to kill Dey,” joint commissioner of police, crime, Himanshu Roy said.
Roy, however, refused to elaborate on Vinod’s exact complicity in the crime by saying that “facts are being verified.” Vinod was remanded to police custody till July 7 on Sunday.
Sources in the crime branch told HT that Vinod (from Chembur, which is Rajan’s stronghold) was instrumental in helping killers identify Dey.
Vinod was involved in several illegal betting syndicates in the city and acted as Dey’s informer.
Sources said on June 7, Vinod had received a call from Rajan, instructing him to summon Dey to a restaurant in Chembur under the pretext of divulging some information.
Vinod acted accordingly and fixed a meeting with Dey.
Rajan allegedly called up his sharpshooter Satish Kalya (the man, who allegedly pulled the trigger on Dey, asking the latter to lay in waiting at the restaurant on that day (June 7) to enable him to identify the target, Dey.
Kalya had been instructed by Rajan to eliminate the “target” (Dey) almost two weeks before he was actually gunned down. Kalya had deputed Anil Waghmode (also arrested) to conduct a recee to identify him.
Sources said fearing that he could be identified in the restaurant, Kalya sent Waghmode instead. Dey came to the bar with another journalist.
Waghmode, who had seen Dey twice before, was by then sure of his identity.
During the meeting, Dey spoke to Rajan and the duo had a heated argument and Vinod was trying to pacify both, sources said.
Sources said Vinod is alleged to be running a construction empire worth over Rs15,000 crore as Rajan’s frontman, involving redevelopment projects in the eastern and central suburbs.