Crucial audio tapes in possession of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and interrogation of several police officers have revealed that disgraced "encounter specialist" Sachin Vaze had bypassed police hierarchy while handling the SUV case.
To oblige his political bosses, Vaze reported the developments directly to his "masters" and deliberately kept many senior officers out of the loop, highly-placed sources said.
Explaining the motive behind planting an explosive-laden SUV near top industrialist Mukesh Ambani's multi-storey residence in Mumbai, BJP leader and legislator Ram Kadam, who initially raised the issue, said that Sachin Vaze was reporting directly to the Shiv Sena leadership.
"Vaze was collecting funds for his party. His several companies in the past had party leaders on board. There is ample evidence to establish that Vaze was a fund collector in the garb of a police officer. The SUV case was also executed with similar motive," Ram Kadam told IANS, adding, "In the days to come, the NIA will hopefully unmask the real face of Vaze and his political masters."
The crucial audio tapes which have the voice of Mansukh Hiren, the owner of the SUV who was allegedly killed by Vaze, disclose that Mumbai's 'encounter specialist' was controlling the strings of the threat crime executed primarily by him.
"By allegedly killing Hiren, Vaze tried to eliminate all the layers of the conspiracy. Had the NIA not swung into action in time, the SUV case would have been a mystery to us," said BJP spokesperson Ram Kadam.
Earlier, former Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis had revealed that Sachin Vaze wielded a lot of clout in the police department, as he was close to the Shiv Sena leadership.
"When I was the CM (2014 to 2019), Uddhav Thackrey had asked to reinstate Sachin Vaze, but I had refused to do so on the basis of a legal opinion. The moment Udhav became the CM, Vaze was back in uniform... it shows the connection," Fadnavis said.
The recovery of a cash counting machine from a Mercedes Benz seized by the NIA indicates that Vaze was linked to cash dealings.
"There have also been reports that Vaze was linked to cricket betting syndicates operating in Mumbai, Thane and other major towns of Maharashtra. Complaints of extortion from other shady activities have also come to the fore. The agency is verifying such facts," said a source in the NIA.
The agency has seized documents, laptops, pendrives, mobile phones and is hopeful that these gadgets will shed light on Vaze's mysterious dealings.
"There have been complaints against him relating to extortion activities. We hope that the NIA will also disclose these dealings which were somewhat done at the behest of Vaze's political bosses," said Ram Kadam, who has been elected as an MLA from Ghatkopar West for three times in a row since 2009.
Earlier during the ongoing questioning of Vaze, the NIA had ascertained that Mumbai's 'encounter specialist' was present on the spot near Antilla where the explosive-laden SUV was parked. The controversial cop used an official vehicle (Innova) as the getaway vehicle to flee from spot. The vehicle was seized from the premises of the Mumbai Police Commisionerate's office.
During preliminary investigation, it was found that while the Innova was driven out of the Commissionerate office on the night of executing the crime (February 25), no entries of the vehicle's movement were made on the registers. As per official norms, a government vehicle's exit and entry times are logged into a register.
Another crucial evidence that puts Vaze in the dock is the registration of an FIR for the stolen SUV (Mahindra Scorpio) at the Vikhroli police station.
NIA officials suspect that the SUV was never stolen. The vehicle was being used by Vaze and was parked at his residential society. After the execution of the crime, Vaze had reportedly taken away the digital video recorder (DVR) to seize the CCTV footages of the SUV parked at his society.
Before the registration of the FIR, the Vikhroli police had failed to do due diligence on the SUV, which was reportedly in possession of Vaze.
As of now, NIA sources said that the agency has laid its hand on some crucial documents, which can nail Vaze for his involvement in executing a threat aimed at scaring India's leading business house.