INDIA: Mumbai: Former encounter specialist of Mumbai Police Pradeep Sharma and two others were sent to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) custody till June 28 by the Special Court, on charges of taking part in the conspiracy to kill Thane-based businessman Mansukh Hiran, on Thursday.
The two others who were remanded to the custody were Satish Mothkuri alias Tanni alias Vicky Baba and Manish Soni. They were arrested for allegedly killing Hiran on the instructions of Pradeep Sharma and former Mumbai Police cop Sachin Waze, who is also an accused in the industrialist Mukesh Ambani bomb scare case (Antilia bomb scare case) and is in NIA custody. He has already been suspended from service.
Antilia bomb scare case
On February 25, 2021, a Scorpio car with 20 explosive gelatin sticks and a threat letter was found outside Industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s South Mumbai residence “Antilia”. The police reached the spot, and subsequently, the then Mumbai’s crime intelligence unit head Sachin Vaze took over the investigation. A few days later, the case was handed to the NIA, after the mysterious death of Hiran whose body was found in a creek in Thane on March 05. Hiran, an auto part dealer, on February 18 had complained to the Vikhroli police that his SUV was missing. The car, laden with explosives, was later found outside Antilia. Vaze was arrested by the NIA on March 13 and he is in NIA custody since then.
After initial inquiries and based on statements and technical evidence, Pradeep Sharma was arrested from his Andheri East residence in northwest Mumbai on Thursday morning.
Appearing for the NIA, Special Public Prosecutor Sunil Gonsalves informed the Special Court that the agency has seized a huge amount of cash involved in the murder, along with arms and ammunitions, from Sharma’s residence. Satish Mothkuri alias Tanni alias Vicky Baba and Manish Soni have confessed to murdering Hiran at the behest of Pradeep Sharma. Hiran was smothered and thrown into a creek. The duo received huge cash for the murder and informed Vaze and Sharma after killing him.
Pleading innocence, Sharma told the court he has done no wrong and that he is a “victim of police rivalry”. The weapon recovered by the NIA is not illegal. It was purchased. There was no communication between me and Vaze. I don’t know Satish and Manish. I have cooperated with the NIA in the investigation. I know Santosh Shelar (who has also been arrested) because he was my informer for 12 years. There are two groups in the Mumbai Police and this is a conspiracy by one of the groups. If I was involved in the murder, I wouldn’t have stayed at home till now,” Sharma said.
Sources in the NIA said that Hiran was killed in a red Tavera car and that the agency has recovered some DNA samples from the vehicle. The arrested accused and former cop Sunil Mane allegedly brought Hiran to the car. Four people — Manish, Satish, Shelar, and Anand Jadhav — were inside it. After murdering Hiran, the arrested accused informed Sachin Waze and Pradeep Sharma, the sources said.
Pradeep Sharma joined Mumbai Police as sub-inspector on January 21, 1983 and was posted at Mahim police station. He was involved in over 300 encounters related to the Mumbai underworld, out of which, 113 shootouts are in his name. He was suspended in connection with the 2006 Lakhan Bhaiyya fake encounter case on August 31, 2008. He was acquitted by the Sessions Court on July 05, 2013 in the Lakhan Bhaiyya fake encounter case. After getting reinstated in 2017, he was transferred to the Thane Police Commissioner office and was made Head of Anti Extortion cell. On July 04, 2019, he took voluntary retirement and joined the Shiv Sena on September 13, 2019. He contested the Maharashtra Assembly elections from the Nala Sopara constituency (near Mumbai) on a Shiv Sena ticket and lost to Kshitij Hitendra Thakur of the Bahujan Vikas Aghadi in 2019.
Those arrested in Hiran murder case so far
Those who have been interrogated and arrested include: Sachin Vaze, Pradeep Sharma, API Riyazuddin Kazi, Sunil Mane, constables-Vinayak Shinde, Santosh Shelar and Anand Jadhav, and Naresh Gaur(a cricket bookie).
Timeline of events
February 17: Mansukh Hiran’s car was stolen from Vikhroli area, February 18: Mansukh Hiran filed a complaint at Vikhroli police station, February 25: The car with 20 gelatin sticks and a threat letter found outside Antilia, February 26: It was known that the car owner was Hiran. He was picked up by ATS for investigation.
February 27: Hiran was seen going to the commissioner’s office in a white Land Cruiser with Vaze, February 27: Vaze’s aide API Riyaz Qazi went to Vaze’s house in Saket Society in Thane and took CCTV footage of the society between February 17 to February 24. March 2: Hiran filed a complaint that some policemen and media people were harassing him, March 4: Hiran went missing. March 5: Hiran’s body was found in Thane creek.
March 5: Former CM Devendra Fadnavis raised the issue in the state legislative assembly alleging Vaze’s role in the case. Vaze was transferred out of Crime Intelligence Unit. March 6: Hiran’s post-mortem report came inconclusive. March 6: All three cases — Mansukh Hiran death case, stolen Scorpio case, and Ambani bomb scare case — transferred to ATS. March 8: NIA took over the Ambani bomb scare case, Mansukh Hiran’s death, and Scorpio car stolen case from Maharashtra ATS. March 13: NIA arrested Vaze after 12 hours of interrogation.He was suspended soon after his arrest. March 14: Vaze was sent to NIA custody. March 16: Top-level meeting of Maharashtra CM, home minister, DG, and CP held. March 17: Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh transferred, Hemant Nagrale took over.