Mansukh Hiran murder: Mumbai Police inspector Sunil Mane suspended after arrest
Mumbai Police inspector Sunil Mane, who was arrested on Friday by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in connection with the Antilia explosives scare and Thane trader Mansukh Hiran’s murder cases, has been suspended from the service. Mane is presently in NIA custody till April 28.
Additional commissioner of police (armed police) Virendra Mishra confirmed the development.
Mane, a 1995-batch Maharashtra Police service officer, was in charge of Mumbai crime branch’s unit 11 until he was recently shunted out to the local arms division as a part of the clean-up drive undertaken by police commissioner Hemant Nagrale, after another officer, Sachin Vaze, was arrested by NIA in both the cases.
Meanwhile on Saturday, an NIA team took Mane to three spots at Thane where they inspected in connection with Hiran’s murder. Sources said that the team visited Manpada junction and Gaimukh, where Hiran was allegedly smothered. After revisiting the two spots along Ghodbunder Road, the team took Mane to a creek at Reti Bunder, Mumbra, where Hiran’s body was found dumped on March 5.
On February 25, a Scorpio car was found abandoned near industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s south Mumbai residence Antilia with 20 loose gelatin sticks and a threatening note. A case was registered with Gamdevi police station on the same day.
Vaze was originally in charge of the investigation of the case, but was removed after reports emerged of his links with Hiran, who was in possession of the SUV, and had reported it stolen on February 17. On March 5, Hiran was found dead in at a Mumbra creek. It was later discovered that Vaze had borrowed Hiran’s car in November and returned it in February.
NIA took over the explosives case on March 8 and Vaze was named the main accused in the Antilia case and was arrested by NIA on March 13. On March 24, the agency began probing the murder too and named Vaze the main accused in that case also.
To contain the damage, the Maharashtra government transferred Mumbai Police commissioner Param Bir Singh for his alleged management of the case. Singh 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. Singh then approached the courts, when no action was taken against Deshmukh.
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 registered an offence against Deshmukh on April 24.
According to NIA sources, Mane was purportedly part of the conspiracy hatched to eliminate Hiran. He was present at crime intelligence unit (CIU) office on March 3, when Vaze purportedly tried to convince Hiran to take the blame for placing the explosives-laden Scorpio near Antilia. According to an 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-trader refused to take the blame and get arrested in the case.
The officer added that Mane was also allegedly present at the meeting attended by Vaze, Vinayak Shinde – a former constable arrested in the Hiran case – and an ex-police officer before the murder at Chakala in Andheri.
According to NIA, Mane was under suspicion from the beginning. When NIA began the probe, he was the Kandivli crime branch’s unit in-charge.
Incidentally, the person who made the last call to Hiran around 8.30pm on March 4, the day he went missing, identified himself to be a crime branch officer from Kandivli and had drawn the victim out of his Thane residence on the pretext of a meeting along Ghodbunder Road. The next day, Hiran’s body was found in a creek at Reti Bunder near Mumbra.
Beside Mane, Vaze and his colleague at CIU, Riyazuddin Kazi, have been suspended from service after their arrests.