Param Bir Singh has been replaced by Hemant Nagrale as Mumbai Police chief, the Maharashtra Government announced today in the middle of sensational revelations on a police officer arrested over his role in a case linked to the Mukesh Ambani security scare last month. Param Bir Singh, moved to Home Guards, left his office shortly after the announcement by state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh.
The massive change comes alongside a snowballing investigation into the role of Mumbai police officer Sachin Waze, who was arrested last week by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in connection with an explosives-filled SUV found abandoned near Mukesh Ambani’s multistorey home Antilia in Mumbai.
The investigation has become a huge embarrassment for the Maharashtra government, with the opposition BJP accusing Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray of shielding Sachin Waze, a controversial cop who was once a member of his Shiv Sena.
The case involves a Scorpio SUV carrying gelatin sticks found abandoned on Mumbai’s Carmichael Road, near Mukesh Ambani’s Antilia, on February 25. It carried a threat letter to Mukesh and Nita Ambani. Sachin Waze was the first investigating officer in the case but is now suspected to have planned the incident.
The abandoned SUV was traced to one Mansukh Hiran, a Thane-based auto parts dealer, who had reported it stolen on February 17. Waze’s role came under scrutiny after Hiran was found dead in a creek near Mumbai on March 5. His wife alleged that Sachin Waze had borrowed the same vehicle for four months and had returned it on February 5. She also accused the cop of a role in her husband’s death, following which the NIA took over the case earlier being probed by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad.
The NIA is investigating whether Waze planned the security scare to score credit.
Today, the top investigating agency was quoted as saying by news agency that a person seen in security footage lurking near Antilia the night the SUV was abandoned was Waze.
“In the CCTV footage, Sachin Waze could be seen with his head covered with a large handkerchief so that no one could identify him. He was wearing an oversized kurta-pajama, and not PPE coverall, in an attempt to mask his body language and face,” the NIA said, adding that Waze had discarded a cellphone and deleted data from his laptop.
The agency also said Waze allegedly seized CCTV footage at his own apartment complex and removed it.
Sources say Chief Minister Thackeray had met two senior Mumbai police officers — Milind Bharambe and Vishwas Nangre Patil – to discuss the probe details.
The case also caused a strain between ruling allies Shiv Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
After a meeting at the Chief Minister’s home yesterday, his Deputy Ajit Pawar of the NCP, said the government was united and responded cautiously to speculation about Param Bir Singh being moved out. “Until there is proof of anyone’s guilt, they will continue working,” Mr Pawar had said.