Dismissed cop Kazi part of Antilia breach conspiracy: Court
Dismissed cop Riyazuddin Kazi aided and abetted Sachin Vaze, prime accused in Antilia explosive scare, in collecting evidence with intent to destroy it, a special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court has observed.
A special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court has observed that material brought on record by the agency suggested that dismissed assistant police inspector (API) Riyazuddin Kazi was part of the conspiracy hatched by his former colleague and prime accused in the Antilia explosives scare and Mansukh Hiran murder case, Sachin Vaze. The court made the observation while rejecting Kazi’s bail plea on March 1.
In the detailed order, made available on Friday, special judge AT Wankhede said: “Prima facie, it appears from the previous and subsequent conduct of the applicant/accused (Kazi) that he was having knowledge of the main object/purpose of the conspiracy hatched for placing the gelatin-laden vehicle at Carmichael Road.”
“In discharge of the same and in order to disappear the evidence and screen the offender, the applicant/accused, at the instance of the accused no.1 — Sachin Vaze — collected the DVRs, CPU, etc to destroy evidence,” the special judge said.
Ultimately, Kazi aided and abetted for the commission of the offence under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), the court observed.
On February 25 last year, a Mahindra Scorpio SUV was found abandoned near industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s residence Antilia, on Carmichael Road in south Mumbai, with a duffel bag containing 20 loose gelatin sticks and a note with a death threat to his family. On March 5, the body of a Thane-based trader, Mansukh Hiran, who was in possession of the SUV, was found dumped in a creek at Reti Bunder near Mumbai.
Initially, the Criminal Intelligence Unit (CIU) of the Mumbai Crime Branch, led by Vaze, investigated the case. During this time Vaze and his team, which also comprised Kazi, collected call detail records (CDRs) and digital video recorders (DVRs) pertinent to the case.
On March 8, the Union home ministry issued a notification, directing NIA to take over the case. The federal agency arrested Vaze on March 9 after interrogating him for several hours. It also arrested Kazi on April 10 while claiming he was part of the larger conspiracy hatched by Vaze and was involved in collecting and destroying crucial pieces of evidence against the main accused in the case.
In its charge sheet, filed on September 3, NIA claimed that Kazi helped Vaze in arranging fake registration number plates for vehicles used in the crime. Kazi was also involved in destruction of evidence by illegally taking possession of CCTV, DVRs that had captured movement of vehicles used by Vaze when the SUV was being placed on Carmichael Road, NIA said in the charge sheet. Kazi also illegally took over CCTV, DVRs and records of the shops from where Vaze had procured fake vehicle registration plates, it added.
Kazi contented before the court that he had collected the CCTV and DVRs as part of his duty — pursuant to orders of his senior, the head of the CIU — while adding that there was no evidence suggesting that he was part of the larger conspiracy. However, the special NIA court rejected this contention.
Kazi’s lawyers further claimed that even if the allegations levelled against him were taken to be true, conspiring to destroy evidence was a bailable offence and so he was entitled to bail as a matter of right.
To this the court said, “As a matter of fact the articles such as DVRs, CPU etc. which were taken in custody by the applicant/accused were seized without preparing panchanama in presence of panch witnesses, nor were those sealed.”
After recovering the said articles, those were just kept in the server room of the CIU office and only stickers were pasted on it, the court observed.
“Prima facie, the only intention can be gathered behind seizure of these articles is to destroy the entire evidence, pointing out the involvement of the vehicle, the person using the same and the person who prepared the fake number plate. Performing such act can’t be a part of the duty of the applicant/accused,” the court said, while rejecting Kazi’s bail plea.
Riyazuddin Hasimuddin Kazi had served in the Mumbai Police department for 20 years and was posted with the CIU since 2017. He was suspended on April 12 last year, two days after his arrest by NIA. He was eventually dismissed from service by an order dated May 21.