Antilia case, Hiran murder: Papers found in cop’s Mumbai home, office says NIA
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Monday on Monday conducted searches at three places related to suspended Mumbai Police inspector Sunil Mane, who is in in the federal agency’s custody since his arrest on April 23, in connection with the Antilia explosives scare and the subsequent murder of Thane trader Mansukh Hiran.
NIA sources said that the agency has recovered some “incriminating” documents and articles from the three places.
The agency also seized Mane’s red Hyundai Creta from his building premises at Malad residence.
A senior officer attached to Mumbai crime branch said an NIA team visited Mane’s former desk and cabin at unit 11 of the crime branch at Kandivli. Mane was in-charge of the unit till March 23.
“The search was a part of NIA’s ongoing investigation and the officers in the unit cooperated with the agency,” the crime branch officer added.
Another NIA team conducted searches at the local arms unit at Marol where Mane was posted at the time of his arrest.
NIA officers said they recovered some documents and material from the Marol office and Mane’s residence during the search, which they are scrutinising.
On February 25, a Mahindra Scorpio – with 20 loose gelatin sticks and a threatening note – was found abandoned near industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s south Mumbai residence Antilia. A case was registered at Gamdevi police station on the same day.
Assistant police inspector Sachin Vaze was originally investigating the Antilia case. But after reports emerged of his links with Hiran – who was in possession of the SUV and had reported it stolen on February 17 – Vaze was removed from the probe. Hiran went missing on March 4 and a day later his body was found in Retibunder creek at Mumbra. It subsequently emerged that Vaze had borrowed the car in November and returned it to Hiran before the Antilia incident came to light on February 25.
NIA took over the explosives case on March 8 and Vaze was arrested on March 13. The agency took over the murder case on March 24 and Vaze was named the main accused in Hiran’s killing too.
To contain the damage, the Maharashtra government transferred police commissioner Param Bir Singh, alleging mismanagement of the case. He subsequently wrote a letter to the chief minister, alleging that home minister Anil Deshmukh had instructed Vaze and some other Mumbai Police officers to extort ₹100 crore from bars, restaurants and hookah parlours. When no action was taken, Singh approached the courts.
The Bombay high court eventually asked the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to conduct a preliminary inquiry into the matter, prompting Deshmukh’s resignation. Accordingly, the central agency conducted the inquiry and registered an offence against Deshmukh on April 24.
Meanwhile, NIA sources said the six new handkerchiefs, which were found stuffed in Hiran’s mouth when his body was recovered, were purportedly purchased from a vendor outside Kalwa railway station on March 4.
The source said NIA has seized CCTV footage capturing a person purchasing the handkerchiefs and he looked like Vaze.
NIA has already secured the CCTV footage in which Vaze is seen travelling from Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus towards Thane by train in the evening of March 4, although he maintained that he was at the criminal intelligence unit (CIU), which he headed at the time. NIA and Maharashtra anti-terrorism squad (ATS) officers – who were probing the cases before the federal agency took over – claim that Vaze had met Hiran at Thane before the latter was allegedly kidnapped and smothered in a car at Gaimukh Chowpatty on Ghodbunder Road. His body was later dumped in the creek.
The NIA officer said the agency has found technical evidence suggesting that Mane was present in Thane when Mansukh was allegedly smothered.
The agency has been scrutinizing Mane’s phone call details to find out who he was in touch with before and after the Antilia scare and Hiran’s murder.
NIA has claimed that Mane was purportedly part of the conspiracy hatched to eliminate Hiran. He was present at CIU office on March 3, when Vaze purportedly tried to convince Hiran to take the blame for placing the explosives-laden Scorpio. According to another NIA officer, Vaze had also assured the trader that he would get him out on bail in a few days. The plan to eliminate Hiran was allegedly hatched after the 48-year-old trader refused to take the blame and get arrested in the case.
Apart from Vaze and Mane, NIA has also arrested Vaze’s former colleague at CIU, assistant inspector Riyazuddin Kazi, former policeman Vinayak Shinde and cricket bookie Naresh Gor in the case.