Antilia Scare: NIA Says Mansukh Hiran Was a Co-Conspirator in Planting Explosives Laden SUV

The NIA claimed Waze and other accused had hatched the conspiracy to eliminate the businessman on March 2 and March 3, but it has not yet found the motive behind his murder.

New Delhi: Businessman Mansukh Hiran, who was found dead under mysterious circumstances in the Thane creek on March 5, was a co-conspirator of Sachin Waze in planting the explosives-laden SUV outside the Antilia residence of billionaire Mukesh Ambani in February, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has claimed.

A Scorpio car was found with 20 gelatin sticks and a threat letter outside Antilia. It was subsequently linked to Hiran, who is the owner of an auto parts shop in Thane. On March 4, he was reported missing and, the next day, his body was found in a creek at Kalwa.

During the hearing on Wednesday, seeking an extension of Waze’s custody, additional solicitor general Anil Singh told the court that the NIA had come across a bank account in the name of a company floated by Waze which had the balance of Rs 1.5 crore.

The NIA also claimed found that Waze had given the total amount of Rs 76 lakh – Rs 40 lakh and Rs 36 lakh – to his aides.

The NIA is probing the cases of planting of the explosives-laden SUV outside the south Mumbai residence of Ambani and the subsequent murder of the Thane-based Hiran, the purported owner of that vehicle.

The probe agency said it wanted to question Waze whether part of this money was used to procure the gelatin sticks which were planted in the SUV parked outside Ambani’s residence on February 25.

Singh said the NIA need to question Waze, a suspended assistant police inspector, about the source of such a huge amount and whether it was extorted by the police officer.

After listening to the arguments of the NIA and Waze’s lawyer, special NIA court judge P.R. Sitre extended his custody to the probe agency till April 9.

Singh said the NIA needs more time to unearth the cash trail from the existing bank accounts of Waze.

The NIA claimed Waze and other accused had hatched the conspiracy to eliminate Hiran on March 2 and March 3. The agency said it has not yet found the motive behind Hiran’s murder.

Waze’s lawyer Abad Ponda opposed the NIA plea seeking extension of Waze’s custody.

Waze, who was arrested by the NIA on March 13, was produced before the special NIA court judge on Wednesday.

Two other accused in the case – suspended police constable Vinayak Shinde and cricket bookie Naresh Gor – were remanded to 14-day judicial custody by the court.

Meanwhile, the court also allowed the CBI to question Waze in connection with its preliminary enquiry into the allegations of corruption levelled by senior police officer Param Bir Singh against former Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh. Singh accused Deshmukh of extortion, a charge that Waze also backed up in a letter.

Deshmukh resigned as the home minister on Monday.

Waze’s lawyer, Aabad Ponda, did not oppose NIA’s plea seeking extension of his custody. He said Waze was taken to CSMT on Tuesday, wearing handcuffs, and he wanted to bring it to the notice of the court that such treatment should not be meted out to anyone, “certainly not a police officer”.

Special public prosecutor Sunil Gonsalves said while NIA took Waze to multiple places for reconstruction of the crime, handcuffs were only placed as a precautionary measure.

Special Judge Prashant R Sitre sent Waze to further custody till April 9. The court directed NIA to submit a detailed medical report after Waze’s lawyer sought an angiography.

(With PTI inputs)