Mumbai: The National Investigation Agency has recovered the talk-of-the-town Innova car, which was allegedly the getaway vehicle used to ferry the driver of the gelatin sticks laden SUV found abandoned near industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s residence on February 25.
Until now, it seemed the car had vanished into thin air. Media persons were dumbfounded on learning that the car was parked, possibly all this while, right under the police nose at the Mumbai police headquarters.
The seizure was effected at around 3.30am on Sunday and the vehicle was towed away by NIA officials to their Pedder Road office, hours after Assistant Police Inspector Sachin Vaze’s arrest on Saturday.
The NIA suspects that the unidentified accused had used the Innova car to flee the spot close to the Ambanis’ residence, Antilia, where the SUV Scorpio was abandoned.
A senior official said that the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) had already traced the white Innova car, but the probe had by then been transferred.
Police sources said that the Innova car (MH-01-ZA-403) was registered at the Tardeo RTO and the words ‘POLICE’ were inscribed on its rear windshield; it had been leased out for police operations by a private car provider, as is the practice. While the police are yet to trace the owner, this vehicle had been supposedly used a number of times by the Criminal Intelligence Unit (CIU) for operations.
According to highly placed sources, the bumper of the Innova car has been changed. The car had been seen in CCTV footage tailing the Scorpio car, which was found laden with explosive material, outside Antilia on Carmichael Road in south Mumbai; later, it was seen on CCTV crossing the Mulund toll naka to enter Thane limits. All this while the Mumbai police had failed to locate its whereabouts.
While sources claimed that the police have identified the Innova driver, too, and are questioning him, no official confirmation was put out by the NIA officer.
In an interesting corollary of the episode, it is learnt that the Scorpio car found with gelatin sticks outside Antilia had also allegedly been used by the Criminal Intelligence Unit during news anchor Arnab Goswami’s arrest in November 2020, an operation that had been headed by Vaze. The number plate of the Scorpio car seen in Goswami’s arrest video, however, was of a two-wheeler, raising suspicion.
Officials said that during investigation, it was also revealed that the now deceased auto-parts dealer Mansukh Hiran and API Sachin Vaze had met each other in a Mercedes car. The Police are now tracing the Mercedes car and are likely to seize it for further investigation.