Vijay Palande alias Karan Sood is a close associate of underworld kingpin Santosh Shetty, which has led officials from the crime branch to suspect Shetty’s involvement in the murder of 67-year-old senior citizen Arun Tikku, sources said.
Shetty was deported from Bangkok last September, but Palande’s close links with the don for more than a decade have made the police suspicious.
Officials suspect that the plan to take possession of Tikku’s 3BHK flat in Lokandwala could have been conceived by Shetty, who was lodged in the Arthur Road jail before he was shifted to the custody of the Anti Extortion Cell recently.
Deven Bharati, additional commissioner of police (crime), said Palande first met Shetty in Nashik jail in 2001-02.
“Palande was in jail in connection with the Kalina double murder case, while Shetty had been incarcerated in a narcotics smuggling case,” Bharati said.
After he was released on bail in 2003, Shetty quietly escaped to Nepal and from there he moved to Bangkok. Through all this, Palande continued to stay in touch with Shetty through his personal courier and over telephone, crime branch sources said.
Palande made several trips to Bangkok after his release from jail in 2009, ostensibly to meet Shetty. “In 2010, Palande also sent his associates, Dhananjaya Shinde and Manoj Gajkosh [the duo who allegedly executed Tikku’s murder] to Bangkok where they worked for Shetty for a year or so. During that period, Palande too visited Bangkok,” Bharati said.
“Following his arrest, most of Shetty’s financial sources have been blocked. The acquisition and subsequent sale of this flat could have generated enough money to foot Shetty’s legal bills,” a police official said, requesting anonymity. “The market value of Tikku’s 1,500 sq ft flat is more than Rs 3 crore.”
Though senior crime branch officials refused to comment on Shetty’s suspected involvement in the murder, they did not dismiss it either. “We are going to confront Palande and Shetty in the coming days. Right now, it is too early to say anything,” said Himanshu Roy, joint commissioner of police (crime).