The firearms used in the killing of Chhota Rajan aide Farid Tanasha on Wednesday were similar to those used in the murder of criminal lawyer Shahid Azmi, in February.
Sources in the crime branch told Hindustan Times on Thursday that the five empty shells found in Tanasha’s house at Tilak Nagar were from 7.65 mm pistols. Similar pistols were used to kill Azmi at his Kurla office.
Azmi was defending Fahim Ansari who was acquitted in the November 26, 2008, terror attacks case.
Four alleged henchmen of gangster Bharat Nepali were arrested for Azmi’s murder and police suspect Nepali could have ordered Tanasha’s killing too.
Additional Commissioner of Police (Crime) Deven Bharti confirmed the similarities, but refused to speculate.
“We are probing the case from all possible angles,” he said adding that apart from Nepali’s suspected involvement, the police are also probing if there was rivalry within the gang.
Nepali was a close associate of Tanasha before the Rajan gang split. Tanasha's second wife, Reshma, has told the police that two assailants had fired at her husband. Police suspect five or six other men stood guard at the gate.
Police are preparing sketches of the shooters based on Reshma’s description.
An underworld source close to Farid claimed that the operation smacked of Nepali’s style. “Nepali wants to increase his ‘number’ (as the killings are called in underworld circles). He is desperately trying to gain foothold in Mumbai’s extortion market by spreading terror,” said the source.
In five months, Nepali has claimed responsibility for four high-profile murders, including that of the owner of Nepal Cable Network Zamim Shah in Kathmandu.
According to the source, Nepali, who shared a room with Tanasha in Chembur and Bangkok in the late 1990s and early 2000 until Rajan was attacked by rival gang members in the Thai capital, was aware of Tanasha’s ‘income’ from redevelopment projects in Tilak Nagar.
“The stakes in the business are large. Nepali wanted his share which Tanasha refused,” the source said claiming that the murder could have been a fallout of a monetary dispute.
Nepali’s family, his parents and brothers, live close to Tanasha’s home.
Tanasha was a key member of the Rajan gang since the late 1980s. He had several cases of murder and extortion against him but had never fired a shot at anyone directly, police sources said. “He was more like a mafia manager in the gang. He would shadow Rajan wherever the don went,” a source said.
The other Rajan man who was arrested with Tanasha from Delhi in 2005 was Vicky Malhotra, who had become Tanasha’s foe of late. The police are also probing Malhotra’s role in the killing. Malhotra is in Thane Central Jail.
Bharti said some extortion cases had been lodged against Tanasha recently. The gangster was on bail in an MCOCA case registered at Tilak Nagar police station. Investigations were on.