New Delhi: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Saturday arrested the Mumbai “encounter specialist”, Sachin Hindurao Vaze, over his alleged connections in February 25 bomb scare case outside the residence of business mogul, Mukesh Ambani, which had attracted a lot of media attention.
On February 25, an explosives-filled black SUV (Scorpio) with 2.5 kg of gelatin sticks, an explosive material was found abandoned around 1.4 km from Reliance Ltd. industry owner, Mukesh Ambani’s 27-storey home, ‘Antilia’, in south Mumbai, after midnight last Wednesday.
A bomb disposal squad had also reportedly found a handwritten letter addressed to the Reliance chairman and Nita Ambani in the SUV apart from explosives materials.
As per CCTV footage, a man in a mask and a hoodie was seen in security footage parking the car, but he was not identified. The clip also showed the Scorpio reaching the spot, along with an Innova, that is also under probe, the in the early hours of Thursday, and the driver of Scorpio then got down and left in the other vehicle. The car had some number plates and a Mumbai police spokesperson said the number plate of the SUV matched that of a vehicle on Mukesh Ambani’s security detail.
To investigate the matter, National Investigation Agency was roped-in by the authorities. The central probing agency, in its recent developments found the assistant police inspector of the Mumbai police, Sachin Vaze, was also involved in the alleged bomb scare case.
Accused Sachin Vaze has been in Mumbai’s so-called “encounter specialists” list alongside Pradeep Sharma and Daya Naik. He returned to the force in 2020 after a 16-year hiatus, for part of which he was under suspension, after which he quit the force.
The accusations against Vaze are yet not known, however, as per reports, NIA has charged him with sections relating to conspiracy, criminal intimidation, negligent conduct in dealing with explosives, forgery, and possession of counterfeit seal.
The senior police inspector, Vaze, has been in the Crime Intelligence Unit (CIU) and was virtually leading the investigation into the security scare outside Antilia. While there was no breakthrough in the case, startling allegations made by former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis introduced a fresh twist, which put Vaze front and centre in the mystery.
-Politician alleged that Vaze had recently been in touch with Mansukh Hiren, a Thane man with a car decor business who had been in possession of the vehicle that sparked the security scare outside Antilia in Mumbai’s Carmichael Road.
-Hiren had reported it stolen the week before the Antilia incident. Fadnavis read out in the Assembly from call data record details of phone calls between Vaze and Hiren.
-The BJP leader also alleged that Vaze was the first person to reach the spot where the stolen Scorpio vehicle was parked outside the Ambani residence. Vaze had denied he had reached the spot first.
-Speaking to the media later, Fadnavis said, “It could be a coincidence, but the sheer number of coincidences with regard to Vaze in this case is more than in a Bollywood film.”
-On the same day as Fadnavis made these allegations, Hiren’s body was found floating in Kalwa creek. His wife alleged that Vaze was behind her husband’s murder. She also alleged that the Scorpio had been with Vaze for several months until February 5 this year.
-Faced with accusations that the Shiv Sena-led state government, and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, were shielding Vaze, the government took him off the case first, then transferred him out of CIU.
With suspicion surrounding Vaze’s role, the NIA interrogated him for nearly 12 hours on Saturday, prior to his arrest. Earlier, the Maharashtra ATS had also questioned him.
Vaze used to be a Shiv Sainik in the period that he quit the force after a long suspension. Unusually, for a policeman who was under a cloud for a custodial death, the case against him is still being heard, he was rehabilitated in June 2020.
His reinstatement was explained as a Covid-19 measure to tide over staff shortage, however, Vaze was no staff filler.
Odd enough, within days of being taken back into the force, Vaze was moved to the Mumbai Crime Branch and made in charge of the CIU. And in no time he was given cases such as the fake social media followers case in which rapper Badshah was summoned. What was more weird was the fact that despite his junior position in the hierarchy, he was soon handling every important case in Mumbai, from the Television Ratings Point (TRP) scam, to leading the team that arrested Arnab Goswami in the Anvay Naik suicide case to the Dilip Chhabria case to the Hrithik Roshan fake e-mail case.
Vaze was among the four policemen charged with murder and destruction of evidences in the custodial killing of 27-year-old engineer Khwaja Yunus, who worked in Dubai and was picked up in Mumbai in 2002 under the Prevention Of Terrorism Act (POTA). Police had alleged Yunus and three other men were involved in a bomb blast in Ghatkopar on December 2, 2002. The four men were interrogated and Yunus was last seen in custody by the other three on January 6, 2003.
The police version was that Yunus escaped from custody while they were taking him to Aurangabad on January 6-7, 2002. However, after a High Court order, the state CID investigated Yunus’s disappearance and found it to be a case of custodial death. The trial of the four policemen is pending as the judge was transferred in 2018.
Vaze’s re-induction into the force last year, and that of the other 3 suspects in the Yunus murder, shocked the engineer’s family. Following which the deceased family moved the High Court against it.
Vaze first joined the force in 1990 and was posted in Gadchiroli. Later, he moved to Thane police, from where he moved to the Mumbai Police Crime Branch and acquired the reputation of an “encounter specialist”. His rise in the force suddenly halted after he was booked in the Khwaja Yunus case, leading to his suspension.
In 2007, he quit the force after his pleas to the Mumbai Police for reinstatement got no traction at the time. Later he joined the Shiv Sena and in 2010, he started a social networking site called ‘lai bhari’. Vaze also claimed to have developed a software to “hear people’s phone conversations and access their messages”.
Furthermore, he has written two books; one on the Sheena Bora murder case and the other on David Headley, the LeT operative involved in the 26/11 terror attack.