A DAY after the Ministry of Home Affairs announced the Mansukh Hiran murder case to be transferred to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad announced that it had solved the case.
Shivdeep Lande, DIG, Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad, shared his picture on social media with a message that read, “We have solved the mysterious Mansukh Hiran murder case. From the bottom of my heart, I salute my ATS officers and men who worked day and night and got results. This is one of the toughest cases in my career.”
Lande posted the message after the ATS arrested two persons – Naresh Gor (31) and Vinayak Shinde (51) – for their alleged involvement in the murder. Gor is a cricket bookie, while Shinde is a constable convicted in a 2006 case of abetment and assisting in the encounter of Lakhan Bhaiyya, an aide of Chhota Rajan.
The two men were remanded in police custody by a Thane court on Sunday. Suspended assistant police inspector Sachin Waze is the key conspirator in the case. He has been named as the “wanted accused” in the remand application of the arrested duo.
On being asked how they were still investigating the case when the Union Home Ministry had ordered the case to be transferred to the NIA, ATS officials said they are yet to receive formal orders of the transfer. “All case details will be transferred to the NIA by Tuesday,” an ATS official said.
An ATS source said both Gor and Shinde have been arrested on technical evidence found in the case. Gor, a Kutch resident, procured eight SIM cards illegally from Gujarat and passed them on to Shinde. Shinde acted as a mediator and handed over the SIM cards to Waze.
The SIM cards were handed over to Waze in the first week of February, said a police officer. Sources revealed that Hiran’s killers had called posing as Tawde, using one of the eight seized SIM cards.
“Shinde had been dismissed from the force as he was a convict in the Lakhan Bhaiyya encounter case. He was serving a life imprisonment. He came out on parole in May 2020 due to the pandemic,” an officer said.
Since then, Shinde was in constant touch with Waze and would “help him in all his illegal activities”, read a press note issued by the ATS. A source said Shinde was often seen at the CIU office in the Mumbai commissionerate.
The ATS suspects that Shinde, a close aide of Waze, is also involved in planting gelatin sticks near Antilia. “We are trying to identify his role,” said an investigator. An officer said they have seized three mobile phones and eight SIM cards from Shinde and Gor.
While seeking their custody, the ATS in its remand application said they want to ascertain the reason behind Hiran’s murder. The ATS also said they need evidence to secure a link between the car theft, explosives and the murder.
“We need to recover the vehicle they used to kill Hiran. We also have to seize the phones that were used to contact him,” said the remand application.
The officials added that they also want to find out the location where Hiran had been killed. The arrested duo were produced in the Thane court on Sunday and remanded in police custody till March 30.
Hiran (46), an owner of an interior car decor shop in Thane, was found dead early on March 5 at Kalwa creek near Reti Bunder. His stolen Scorpio car was found loaded with gelatin sticks outside businessman Mukesh Ambani’s residence Antilia last month.
During investigation, Hiran had told the police that the vehicle had been stolen on February 17 from Vikhroli where he had parked it after the steering wheel of the vehicle jammed.
The ATS said they want to recover Hiran’s phone, his gold belongings, including a ring, a chain, which he was wearing before his death but were not found along with his body. Officials said as the crime is highly sensitive, it is necessary to make an in-depth investigation into the arrest of the accused.
A day before his arrest in the Antilia bomb scare case, Waze had filed an anticipatory bail plea before the Thane sessions court in Hiran’s alleged murder case. The court had sought the ATS’s response. On Friday, the ATS in its response stated that they need to investigate Waze’s role in the murder. The court adjourned the matter to March 30.