Suspended Mumbai cop Sunil Mane was in area when Mansukh Hiran was killed: NIA
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 case, was taken to Sir JJ Hospital for routine medical check-up on Sunday, a day after the special NIA court had sent him to the agency’s custody.
An NIA officer said that the agency has found technical evidence against Mane in the murder case, as he was present in the area at Thane where Hiran was allegedly smothered in a car on March 4. A day later, his body was found from Reti Bunder creek in Mumbra.
NIA has been questioning Mane to find out his role in Hiran’s murder and establish who else was involved in the crime. The agency has been scrutinising Mane’s phone call details to ascertain who he was in touch with before and after the Antilia incident in February and Hiran’s murder.
“If the agency finds anyone suspicious, we will definitely interrogate and verify their roles in both the cases,” said the officer.
On Saturday, Mane was taken to the three spots at Thane in connection with the Thane trader’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 the Reti Bunder a creek.
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.
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. 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.
According to NIA sources, Mane was purportedly part of the conspiracy hatched to eliminate Hiran. He was present at the 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 held at Chakala in Andheri which was attended by Vaze, Vinayak Shinde – a former constable arrested in the Hiran case – and an ex-police officer before the murder. 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.