Three persons were arrested on Tuesday for the murder of Shahid Azmi, the 33-year-old lawyer who was defending 26/11 accused, Fahim Ansari.
Azmi was shot dead at his Kurla office on February 11.
The police have arrested two of the alleged shooters and a mafia manager.
Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Rakesh Maria said the third accomplice, Hasmukh Solanki, is absconding. With this, the police claim they have solved the case. The motive, however, is unknown, Maria said.
The accused were arrested from Mulund. Devendra Jagtap (28) and Pintu Dhagle (22) were arrested early on Tuesday morning while Vinod Vichare (32) was picked up later in the day.
Initial investigations had indicated that the murder was ordered by fugitive gangsters, Bhagwant Singh alias Bharat Nepali and Vijay alias Bala Shetty.
Maria said Vichare, who works as a data processing manager with a firm at Nariman Point, is Nepali and Shetty’s man in Mumbai.
Nepali is suspected to be in Malaysia while Bala shuttles between Malaysia and Bangkok.
Vichare allegedly received instructions to eliminate Azmi from the duo. He roped in Jagtap. The contract was allegedly fixed for Rs 1 lakh. Vichare gave the money and the weapons to Jagtap. “Devendra [Vichare] is the main conspirator and executor of the operation,” Maria said.
The accused had allegedly planned to kill Azmi in court or at his residence but dropped the idea and decided to ambush Azmi at his office at Taximen’s colony, Kurla, Maria said.
Vichare conducted a recce of the area around Azmi’s office twice between February 6 and February 11. He also surveyed the court premises. On February 11, Jagtap, Dhagle and Solanki went to Azmi’s office.
Jagtap went and enquired with Azmi’s office attendant Sunder about when the lawyer was expected. After Azmi arrived, Jagtap and Dhagle went in. Solanki waited outside.
Jagtap and Dhagle shot Azmi and the trio escaped in an autorickshaw, Maria said.
The police have seized the murder weapons--two 7.65 mm pistols, six rounds and a .9mm pistol. They also seized five mobile phones.
Maria said the police plan to book the accused under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act.
According to Maria, Nepali has split from mentor Chhota Rajan to float his own outfit. Shetty is an associate of narcotics smuggler, Santosh Shetty. Maria said that Azmi’s murder could Nepali and Shetty’s joint effort to make their presence felt in Mumbai.