A day after the Union ministry of home affairs (MHA) transferred the investigation of the murder of Thane-based businessman Mansukh Hiren to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the state’s Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) arrested two persons in connection with the case on Sunday. In a Facebook post, Deputy Inspector General (ATS) Shivdeep Lande claimed to have solved the Hiren murder case and saluted his officers, saying this had been one of the most challenging cases of his career.
The two persons arrested on Sunday were Naresh Gor, 31, and suspended police constable Vinayak Shinde, 55, who is serving a life sentence in Lakhan Bhaiya fake encounter case. Shinde came out of jail in May last year on parole in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, while Gor is a cricket bookie.
The investigation revealed that Shinde had allegedly provided Vaze the SIM cards which were allegedly used in the crime, said sources. It was from one of these numbers that Hiren had received a WhatsApp call prior to his murder, with the caller introducing himself as ‘Tawde’ purportedly calling from the Kandivli crime branch and asking Hiren to reach Ghodbunder Road on March 4. A day later, Hiren’s body was recovered from Reti Bunder in Mumbra.
Though Shinde has reportedly confessed to having providing SIM cards to Vaze, police suspect his involvement in the case goes further. But since Shinde has been behind bars for many years and has already been sentenced to life imprisonment, it is hard to elicit more information from him, said officials.
ATS officers claim that while suspended API Sachin Vaze is the main accused in the case, the mastermind of the conspiracy is someone else. According to the ATS, Shinde was in touch with Vaze and helping him in his illegal activities after being released on parole while Gor had allegedly provided five SIM cards to Vaze and Shinde which were later used in the murder. This was revealed during their interrogation, according to the ATS.
From the two accused, the ATS has seized three mobiles phones and 8 SIM cards, the latter having been procured from Gujarat.
While seeking their police custody, the ATS has said that the reason behind Hiren’s murder, how it was executed, where the conspiracy was hatched and how the body was disposed are yet to be found. The vehicles and other material used in the murder are also to be seized, said the ATS.
Also, Hiren’s gold chain, Pushkaraj stone, and a wrist watch which were on his person are yet to be recovered. The accused were produced before the Thane court on Sunday, which remanded them in police custody till March 30.
Hiren, who was an auto spare parts dealer from Thane, came into the picture when it emerged that it was ‘his’ gelatin sticks-laden Scorpio that had been found parked near industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s residence Antilia in south Mumbai on February 25.
The case took a tragic turn when Hiren’s body was recovered from Reti Bunder on March 5. Following his death, the ATS had registered a case of murder, disappearance of evidence and other criminal conspiracy on the complaint of Hiren’s wife Vimla, who suspected Vaze’s involvement in the murder.
The NIA has already arrested Vaze for allegedly parking the Scorpio near Antilia.