Days after a plan to attack film producer Mahesh Bhatt was foiled, the crime branch of the Mumbai Police have identified a north Mumbai garment shop employee as the person who allegedly received the money, sent through the hawala route, for carrying out shootouts in the city.
The person is a relative of Mohammad Anees Abdul Merchant, 35, one of the main accused in the case, who was in contact with underworld gangster Ravi Pujari.
The suspect, who is currently being interrogated, allegedly received the money to fund the proposed shootouts on film producers Karim Morani and Mahesh Bhatt. The attacks were allegedly planned by Pujari. The suspect’s name cropped up during the interrogation of 13 people arrested in the case.
“The person is employed at a readymade garment shop located in the suburbs –on the Borivli-Jogeshwari stretch - and received Rs 11 lakh, which was later distributed among the accused. Further links in the money trail is being probed,” said an officer, requesting anonymity.
Meanwhile, investigators claimed to have busted this active criminal module, arresting all of its members. However, they said there was a distinct possibility of another such module existing in the city.
Crime branch officials also discovered that the accused had bought four SIM cards for the purpose of keeping in touch with Pujari in connection with the two shootout operations. These SIM cards were bought using fake documents – passport copies – which were procured from the Internet.
“We are yet to get details of these numbers and the calls made and received as they destroyed the SIM cards and the phones and the accused do not remember the phone numbers. We will add new Indian Penal Code sections of forgery and others in the case,” said the officer.
In recent times, gangsters have started hiring fresh hands for operations due to shortage of shooters as well as the fact that those with past criminal records arouse suspicion.
Gang members in prison usually zero in on person serving jail terms in small cases and arrange for their bail, said officials. This has been a traditional way of hiring hands. With the gang paying for their freedom, the newly-released men owe them allegiance.
However, now gangsters have started using their old associates to find new recruits for carrying out shootouts.
“They find those persons who are in need of money and lure them with easy earnings. Since ample such people are available to work, more than one group is used in an operation with separate people to conduct reconnaissance of the spot and to carry out a shootout,” said the officer.