Antilia and Hiran case: Pradeep Sharma, an encounter specialist to arrested accused

Pradeep Sharma, who was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Thursday in connection with the murder of Thane industrialist Mansukh Hiran, and the Antilia explosives scare case, was well known as an “encounter specialist” and is believed to have to gunned down several members of the Chhota Rajan gang
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Updated on Jun 18, 2021 12:48 AM IST
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By, Mumbai

Pradeep Sharma, who was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Thursday in connection with the murder of Thane industrialist Mansukh Hiran, and the Antilia explosives scare case, was well known as an “encounter specialist” and is believed to have to gunned down several members of the Chhota Rajan gang. The 59-year-old was reportedly involved in the killing of more than 100 criminals during his years of service.

A 1983 batch police officer, he was dismissed in August 2008 for alleged underworld links, but was reinstated in May 2009 following the orders of the Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal.

Sharma is believed to have been involved in the “encounter killings” of several noted criminals between 1995 and 2004 – a period when Mumbai police officials were a given free hand purportedly to maintain law and order. Other “encounter specialists” of the time included Daya Nayak, Ravindra Angre, Prafulla Bhosale, Vijay Salaskar and Sachin Vaze.

In 1999, Sharma and his team reportedly killed gangster Vinod Matkar, a henchman of Chhota Rajan. When Rajan had planned to kill Dawood Ibrahim in Pakistan, Matkar was part of a team that also comprised Ejaz Lakdawala, Vicky Malhotra, Balu Dokre and Farid Tanasha. The same year, Sharma is said to have also killed Dawood Ibrahim’s close aide and sharp shooter Sadiq Kalya in Dadar.

In 2001, Sharma is believed to have killed gangster Ashwin Naik’s aide Ganesh Devadiga in Versova. Devadiga had 26 serious offences registered against him.

Sharma, however, became famous after his team killed three Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists in 2003 in Goregaon, while he was incharge of the Andheri Crime intelligence unit (CIU). Of the three, two -- Abu Sultan, who was LeT’s southern India commander, and Abu Anwar Ali -- were Pakistani nationals.

During the gun fight between the three LeT terrorists were armed AK-56 rifles and inspector Daya Nayak was also hit. Several arms and ammunition were recovered from the terrorists.

In 2010, Sharma was arrested in connection with the extra judicial killing of Chhota Rajan gang member Ramnarayan Gupta alias Lakhan Bhaiya which had taken place in November 2006. Gupta was picked up from Navi Mumbai and killed in Andheri by Sharma and his team, which also included police constable Vinayak Shinde.

Shinde was convicted of Gupta’s murder and was released on parole last year during the drive to decongest the city’s prisons during the ongoing pandemic. Shinde has also been arrested by the NIA in connection with industrialist Mansukh Hiran’s murder. Vaze masterminded the murder and the planting of explosives outside billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s house, the NIA contends.

Sharma spent about four years in jail for his alleged role in Gupta’s death, but was acquitted in July 2013 for the lack of evidence. All the other 21 accused in the case were convicted in the case. Sharma’s acquittal is under challenge before the Bombay High Court.

In 2017 Sharma was reinstated and became head of the Anti Extortion Cell of the Thane police. Within a month of taking charge, Sharma arrested Iqbal Kaskar, brother of fugitive gangster Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar. He continued to head the anti-extortion cell at Thane till he resigned in July 2019.

He then joined Shiv Sena and contested and lost 2019 Maharashtra assembly elections from Nallasopara constituency against Hitendra Thakur.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2022