The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has procured the CCTV camera footage and fingerprints, to build and probe the case against the now suspended Assistant Police Inspector (API) Sachin Vaze, held in connection with the Antilia bomb-scare case.
While in NIA custody, Vaze’s health reportedly took a turn for the worse on Monday and he was rushed to the state-run JJ Hospital. However, a hospital spokesperson said Vaze was brought to the hospital for a clinical check-up, examined and sent back. The reports were given to the concerned authorities.
The Central agency is also likely to take over the murder case of Mansukh Hiran, the ‘owner’ of the Scorpio that had been found parked near the Ambanis’ residence on February 25. Hiran’s body was found from Reti Bunder creek in Mumbra on March 5. After his death, the Anti-Terrorism Squad had registered a murder case.
The NIA is also likely to take over the investigation of the theft case of Hiran’s car, which was reportedly stolen from the Eastern Express Highway at Vikhroli on February 17.
Earlier in the day, Mumbai Police suspended Vaze, a day after his arrest by the NIA in connection with the parking of a gelatin sticks-laden SUV near industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s residence Antilia in south Mumbai. Confirming the development, Mumbai Police spokesperson DCP S Chaitanya said, “API Sachin Vaze has been placed under suspension, by an order of Additional CP Special Branch”.
Meanwhile, the NIA continued its questioning of the Criminal Intelligence Unit (CIU) officers, with several of them being summoned to its office at Pedder Road on Monday as well. Vaze was the CIU in-charge before he was sidelined over a series of allegations.
Police have also obtained the CCTV camera footage from February 25 to March 5, outside the CIU office, to ascertain the times at which cars arrived there and all those who visited Vaze, as well as his comings and goings. Meanwhile, the fingerprints found on the Scorpio car laden with explosives match those of Vaze’s, proving he had access to the car and was allegedly a part of the conspiracy.
An officer, on condition of confidentiality, said the CCTV footage confirmed that Vaze had met Hiran on the day when the explosive-laden SUV was found parked outside Antilia. Acting on these findings, the NIA are conducting a detailed investigation to determine who all were part of the conspiracy, as revealed during the probe.
In the CCTV camera footage in the NIA’s possession, a man wearing a PPE kit is seen walking the streets in the wee hours of February 25. Police are now seeking the assistance of forensic human analysis to ascertain the gait of the man and see if it matches Vaze’s.
The NIA arrested Vaze on March 13. He was produced before the court on Sunday and sent to NIA custody for 12 days. In its remand plea seeking custody of Assistant Police Inspector Sachin Vaze in the Antilia bomb scare case on Sunday, the NIA had stated that it had found his “direct involvement” in the planting of the explosive laden SUV in Carmichael Road on the intervening night of 24th and 25th February.
On Sunday, the agency also seized the Innova car in which the accused had fled after parking the Scorpio near Antilia. Twenty gelatin sticks and a threat letter addressed to the Ambanis, among other things, were recovered from the car.
Vaze’s latest suspension comes barely eight months after he returned to police service after a suspension of almost 16 years. He was suspended and subsequently arrested in 2004, in the alleged custodial death of 27-year-old Khwaja Younus. He was reinstated in June 2020, after the state government said it required all available officers on board amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
(With inputs from Bhavna Uchil)