While the police are aware of the fact that Vijay Palande, the main accused in the Arun Tikku and Karan Kumar Kakkad murder cases, is a close associate of gangster Santosh Shetty, crime branch officials are now checking whether he has any links with Chhota Rajan as well.
A senior officer said on condition of anonymity: "Earlier, Palande would give officials of the crime branch information about gangsters such as Shetty who had broken away from Rajan."
According to the officer, when Palande was re-arrested from Churchgate railway station after his escape from police custody on April 10, he reportedly told the officer: "Let me go and I will get you Chhota Rajan".
"There are chances that Palande may have worked for Rajan and passed information about these gangsters to the police," the officer said.
However, crime branch sleuths are cautious about taking any of Palande's claims at face value.
"Nothing can be said for sure. Palande has the habit of giving us wrong information and making up stories," the officer said.
The officer, however, said that Palande has spoken a lot about Shetty while in custody, which reaffirmed his links to the gangster.
Palande first met Shetty in Nashik jail in 2001-2002 while serving time for the murder of Anup Das and his father Swaraj Ranjan.
After he was released on bail in 2003, Shetty quietly escaped to Nepal and from there he moved to Bangkok. Palande, however, continued to stay in touch with Shetty through his personal courier and over the telephone, crime branch sources said.
Palande also made several trips to Bangkok to meet Shetty. "In 2010, Palande sent his associates, Dhananjay Shinde and Manoj Gajkosh, to Bangkok where they worked for Shetty," a source said.