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New Delhi: Dismissed Mumbai police officer Sachin Waze planned the Antilia bomb scare because he wanted to establish himself as a supercop again by creating a terrorist threat and staging an encounter, says the chargesheet filed by the National Investigation Agency.
Waze, who had been reinstated to the Mumbai police in June 2020 after a 16-year suspension, wanted to “regain his clout” as an encounter specialist and an ace detective, the investigating agency said in the more than 1,000-page chargesheet filed before a Mumbai court last week.
The sensational bomb scare case, which began with the discovery of 20 gelatin sticks inside a green Scorpio on February 25 near Mukesh Ambani’s residence, took many twists and turns. In the days that followed, Mansukh Hiran, the custodian of the car, was found dead in a creek in Thane. Soon, Waze – who had initially been in charge of the investigation – was arrested on March 13. He would later be dismissed from service.
Apart from Waze, the NIA has listed nine others as accused. Among them are three dismissed police officers and one retired police officer, besides assassins who were allegedly hired to kill Hiran.
The NIA alleges that Waze, who was then an assistant police inspector commanding the Crime Intelligence Unit (CIU), himself planted the explosive-laden car at Antilia.
He initially tried to make it look like an organisation called ‘Jaish ul Hind’ was responsible for the bomb scare. Later, he tried to convince Hiran to take responsibility for planting the car at Antilia. When Hiran refused to do so, Waze conspired to kill him as the former was aware of the entire conspiracy and could “spill the beans”, the NIA claims.
The chargesheet also says that Waze financed the entire conspiracy through an extortion racket.
How did the car come to be at Antilia?
The Scorpio car actually belonged to one Sam Newton, who handed it over to Hiran. The latter ran a car decor shop and Newton gave him the car in lieu of pending dues for refurbishing the vehicle.
Hiran and Waze knew each other, the NIA contends. To execute the bomb scare conspiracy, Waze asked Hiran to leave the car at a predecided location on a service road along the Eastern Express highway on February 17. He gave the key to Waze, who picked it up and parked it near his house. The NIA claims that Waze also convinced Hiran to file a complaint that the Scorpio was stolen, allowing him to use the car for the conspiracy.
Waze then removed the original number plates and affixed forged plates, deliberately choosing a number that belonged to a car owned by Reliance Industries and was part of Nita Ambani’s convoy, the chargesheet says. By doing so, Waze wanted to “create an enormous impact”, it says.
He placed the gelatin sticks and a threat note, which warned that this was just a ‘glimpse’ of what was to come, inside the car and drove it to Carmichael Road and parked it there, the NIA says. The agency adds that Waze had told a person to drive a white Innova car, which belonged to the CIU, behind the Scorpio so he could later be picked up and dropped home. Waze misled the driver, telling him the car was planted at Carmichael as part of a ‘secret operation’ by the CIU. The driver is a protected witness, according to the chargesheet.
What happened next?
Once the Scorpio was found by the Ambani family’s security detail, Waze reached the spot and was able to get the investigation transferred to the CIU, the NIA says. This was part of his plan to ‘vitiate’ the investigation.
On February 27, a post appeared on a Telegram channel called ‘Jaish ul Hind’ claiming responsibility for the bomb scare. However, another message was circulated on social media the next day, denying Jaish ul Hind’s responsibility.
At this point, Waze began to destroy evidence to cover his tracks, the NIA says. He destroyed the vehicle entry register maintained at the CP office pertaining to the period before March 1, masking his movements. Waze also destroyed the clothes he wore when he parked the car near Antilia and the mobile phone that he had used.
Waze and co-accused police officers, after taking over the investigation, meticulously began to collect digital video recorders (DVRs) and CCTV footage. Instead of using it to investigate, however, their goal was to destroy any video evidence of Waze’s alleged involvement in the crime.
The NIA says that CCTV footage near Antilia, a location in Thane where Waze acquired the forged number plate and from Hiran’s car decor shop were illegally collected by Waze or his colleague Riyazuddin Kazi. They were destroyed and dumped into the Mithi river. The NIA says it has recovered these items.
Why was Hiran killed?
The NIA says that as pressure was building on the Mumbai police to solve the sensitive case, Waze knew it was only a matter of time before the investigation would be transferred to a senior officer. He tried to pressure Hiran into taking responsibility for planting the explosives, trying to convince him that he would immediately be released on bail.
The businessman refused to do so, at which point Waze feared that Hiran was the ‘weak link’ in the conspiracy. If investigated by another officer, Hiran could reveal that he had handed over the keys to the Scorpio to Waze, the latter feared, according to the chargesheet.
Waze contacted Pradeep Sharma, a retired police officer, to kill Hiran, the NIA says. Sharma, in turn, hired Santosh Shelar to do the job.
On March 4, Waze told Hiran that he would take him to a ‘safe place’ to avoid arrest or interrogation by authorities. To create an alibi for himself, Waze conducted a midnight raid at a bar on that day, the chargesheet says.
Police inspector Sunil Mane, an accomplice of Waze’s, posed as ‘police inspector Tawde’ and picked Hiran up from his residence. He drove the businessman to a pre-decided location on Ghodbunder road in Thane, where Shelar and three others were waiting in another car.
Mane asked Hiran to get into the other car, a Tavera. He was strangulated and killed in the car, the NIA says. The killers then drove to the Kasheli bridge on the Thane-Bhiwandi road and dumped the body into the creek.
The NIA says it has proof of the movements of the accused from CCTV cameras. The agency says its claims are also corroborated by call records of benami SIM cards that were procured by Waze to execute Hiran’s murder.
According to the chargesheet, Waze planned to project Hiran’s death as a case of suicide due to ‘mental harassment’ by the media and investigating agencies.
Waze lost control of the narrative when Hiran’s widow Vimla accused the Mumbai police of foul play. In a written complaint to the Maharashtra ATS, she specifically accused Waze of murdering her husband. In light of these allegations, the case was transferred to the ATS and subsequently to the NIA.
Other allegations and charges
The chargesheet says that by planting the bombs, Waze’s intent was “clearly to terrorise wealthy and prosperous people”. He also wanted to extort money from them by threatening them with “dire consequences”.
“The wording on the threat note ‘agle baar connect hokar aega‘ (next time the bomb will have wires connected) clearly depicts [the] intention of Waze for furtherance [of] acts to re-establish himself as a supercop by staging a fake encounter as to regain his lost glory,” the chargesheet said.
Other arrested accused in the case are Vinayak Shinde, Naresh Gor, Riyazuddin Kazi, Sunil Mane, Anand Jadhav, Satish Mothkuri, Manish Soni, Santosh Shelar and Pradeep Sharma. Shinde, Kazi and Mane were all Waze’s colleagues and were dismissed from service after their arrest. Sharma is a retired police officer.
All the accused are booked for murder, conspiracy, extortion, kidnapping, forgery and criminal intimidation under the IPC as well as provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Explosive Substances Act and Arms Act.
The chargesheet has statements from 158 witnesses and 20 other key witnesses, whose identities are protected.
Waze’s chequered past and what the allegations could mean
Before his reinstatement in 2020, Waze had built a reputation as one of the most controversial Mumbai police officers. He was allegedly involved in at least 60 extrajudicial killings. Waze was arrested and suspended in 2004 for the custodial murder of Khwaja Yunus, an accused in the 2002 Ghatkopar blast. He is still facing trial in the case. In 2012, he was interrogated by the CBI for his alleged involvement in the extrajudicial killing of another Muslim youngster Sadik Jamal by the Gujarat police.
That his reinstatement came under a government headed by the Shiv Sena, the party he had joined in 2008 while under suspension, spurred a lot of criticism. Nevertheless, he was posted at the CIU, where many sensitive cases are investigated. Indeed, one of his first jobs after returning was the politically sensitive investigation into the alleged rigging of television rating points. He was also tasked with arresting Arnab Goswami in the Anvay Naik suicide case.
Days after Waze’s arrest by the NIA in the Antilia case, a new controversy raged. Param Bir Singh, who had been removed as Mumbai police commissioner on March 17 for his mishandling of the explosives case, claimed on March 20 that state home minister Anil Deshmukh had instructed Waze to extort Rs 100 crore every month. Singh claimed that Deshmukh told Waze to collect Rs 2-3 lakh from Mumbai’s 1,750 bars, restaurants and other establishments.
While Deshmukh has denied the allegations, he stepped down to ensure a fair probe. The CBI and ED are now probing the Nationalist Congress Party leader for alleged corruption and money laundering.
In this context, the NIA chargesheet’s allegations that Waze financed his conspiracy through an extortion racket could hold towards greater significance. Though the chargesheet does not go into details of this alleged extortion racket, the annexure contains the statement of a protected witness who claims that he paid Rs 5.5 lakh per month to Waze for ‘protection against raids’. Two other protected witnesses also claim that they saw Waze visit Deshmukh at his official residence.