The bomb scare that attacked the Ambani house, followed by a mysterious death of a businessman has led to the arrest of Sachin Vaze by the National Investigative Agency (NIA). This story lays its events similar to a Bollywood action movie as Sachin Vaze, an Assistant Police Inspector of Mumbai Police has been alleged to be connected with the explosive-laden car found near billionaire Mukesh Ambani's house and has been accused of the murder of a Thane-based businessman.
Further, during the proceedings of the case, several insights into the highly affluent lifestyle of Vaze were revealed, along with his alleged role as an extortionist linking him to senior ministers in the Maharashtra government.
Here is all that you need to know about the case.
Who is Sachin Vaze?
Sachin Vaze is a Mumbai Police officer who joined the police force in 1990 and is a two-time suspended officer. He went up through the ranks to join the Special Squad of the Thane Police. He gained fame for conducting encounters that have inspired several films and shows. Vaze belonged to a team that has encounter specialists like Pradeep Sharma and Daya Naik and is believed to have killed 63 criminals. However, in March 2004, due to being involved in the custodial death of Khwaja Yunus, who is a suspect in the 2002 Ghatkopar bombing case, Sachin Vaze, along with other 14 police officers were suspended.
After officially resigned from his post in 2007, and a year later he joined the Shiv Sena. Vaze, during this period also worked on several other ventures like running his own Marathi social networking platform, designing a WhatsApp-like indigenous messaging app, writing two books, and obtaining multiple trademarks. Last year, he was finally reinstated into the police force after his suspension was revoked after 16 years. The, then Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh said that the reason for Vaze’s re-recruitment is due to a shortage of police staff as India's financial capital Mahatrashra battled the intense COVID-19 crisis. Thus, within four days of re-joining, he was posted at the specialized Criminal Intelligence Unit of the Mumbai Crime Branch. He directly reported to Mumbai Police Commissioner and was handed several high-profile cases. One of these was the Antillia bomb scare case.
Antilia bomb scare case
A green-colored Scorpio was found parked near the residence of industrialist Mukesh Ambani on 25th February 2021. Post investigation, the abandoned vehicle was found to contain 20 sticks of the explosive gelatin, a set of number plates, and a threat letter. With several concerns being raised on the lack of security of India's richest man, CIU's Sachin Vaze was appointed to lead the team investigating the case. In the following days of this event, several discoveries were made. It was found that two SUVs were employed to commit the crime, and a man wearing a PPE kit was discovered through CCTV footage to be walking on the site. It was realized that to reveal the mystery, it was important to where the cars had come from and who was the man caught in the CCTV footage.
Murder of Mansukh Hiren And Vaze Suspected To Be A Part Of This Conspiracy
It was discovered that the Scorpio which was found filled with explosives belonged to a Thane-based businessman Mansukh Hiren. Hiren claimed that his car had been stolen a week before it was spotted in Antilla, on February 17th. Before he could be further questioned, his body was found dead in Mumbra creek in Thane on March 5th, 2021.
This unusual death of Mansukh Hiren changed the turn of events and raised questions if Sachin Vaze was a part of this entire conspiracy. Mansukh Hiren's wife claimed that Sachin Vaze played a role in her husband’s death. Vimla Hiren, in her police complaint, claimed that her husband who was an auto parts dealer had known Sachin Vaze for many years. Further, the family-owned the Scorpio for 3 years. She also stated that the car was taken by Vaze from Hiren in November 2020 for some personal use, and he returned it back on February 5, citing some issues with the car. Mansukh continued to use the car, but due to some mechanical faults on Feb 17th, he left it to repair at Vikhroli and came back. However, the next day he had to file a theft complaint with the police, as the car went missing on that day.
"On February 25, when the Scorpio was found near Ambani's residence, the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) Vikhroli unit questioned my husband. My husband identified the car and also informed them about the theft complaint and showed a copy of the FIR," Vimla said.
Vimla Hiren further alleged that Sachin Vaze told her husband to get arrested voluntarily in the Ambani bomb scare case, and said that he would ensure that Hiren would be granted bail. Thus, days before his death, Mansukh had drafted a letter accusing the police of harassment, as between February 26 and March 4, Hiran was questioned by several policemen from various teams. The letter was reportedly written for him by a lawyer hired by Sachin Vaze. On March 4th, Mansukh was said to go and meet a Crime Branch police officer called Tawde but unfortunately, he was found dead the next day.
“Taking into consideration all the above circumstances, I am sure that my husband was murdered,” the last few lines of Vimla’s statement read. “I suspect Sachin Vaze could have committed the said murder.” Thus her statement was a big clue for the ATS to probe that this event is not a situation of accidental drowning or suicide.
Thus, on March 6th the Mansukh Hiren death case was taken over by the Maharashtra ATS along with the stolen Scorpio case and Ambani bomb scare case. However, two days later, the NIA took over the investigation of the Ambani bomb scare case from the Maharashtra ATS.
Arrest of Sachin Vaze
Sachin Vaze was called for questioning and probing by the NIA on the 13th of March after his plea for interim relief was rejected by the session court in Thane.
Thus, after over 12 hours of extensive grilling by the NIA Sachin Vaze was arrested under Sections 286 (Negligent conduct with respect to explosive substance), 465 (Punishment for forgery), 473 (Making or possessing counterfeit seal), 506(2) (criminal intimidation), 120 B (criminal conspiracy) of Indian Penal Code and 4(a)(b)(I)(attempt to cause an explosion) of the Explosive Substances Act, 1908. He was further suspended from the Mumbai Police on March 15th after the NIA arrested him for being a part of placing a car filled with explosives near the Ambani residence. However, his lawyers have denied all allegation against him.
How is Sachin Vaze behind these events?
India Today stated that is still not in the open whether Sachin was the sole conspirator behind these events, or was working under the instructions of someone else. But several clues point towards his role in the crime.
- A day before Hiren’s Scorpio went missing, i.e. Feb 16th, Vaze had used a fake Aadhar card to check in at a posh hotel in Mumbai. This room was alleged to be booked by a businessman for a 100-day stay.
- On the next day when Mansukh Hiren reported his Scorpio as stolen on February 17, the Vikhroli Police was asked to stop its investigation in the car theft case the next day by Sachin Vaze. NIA sources state that in reality Mansukh’s car was never stolen. He reportedly handed over keys to the car to a CIU official on February 17, who then parked the car at Sachin’s residence in Thane.
- Further, Sachin’s family left their Thane flat a week before the Ambani bomb scare incident. This was shown in the CCTV footage of the building that was taken away by API Riyaz Qazi, a close aide of Vaze. Further, on searching Vaze’s residence, the NIA found some crucial evidence.
- On February 25, at 1.20 am, an Innova car was seen entering Mumbai. It is important to note that the same car followed the Scorpio placed outside the Ambani house. Thus, after parking the car filled with explosives, a man who was found wearing a PPE (alleged to be Vaze) mounted the Innova and left the spot.
- When Mansukh went missing on the night of March 4 and was allegedly murdered, Sachin took a few steps to keep him safe. He refrained from making or answering any calls on his personal phone, and further to strengthen his defence he carried out various searches till late at night at hotels in Dongri, Mumbai on March 4th.
- According to Maharashtra ATS, Vaze has other accomplices too. It said that a Gujarat-based cricket bookie Naresh Gor gave five sim cards to another suspended Mumbai Police constable Vinayak Shinde who was a close aid of Sachin. Further, calls were made from these sim cards to Mansukh to make him leave his house on the day of the murder. Thus, both Gor and Shinde have been arrested.
- Shinde is also suspected to be involved in placing the threat letter near the Ambani house, as a printer was found in his residence which is suspected to have been used to print that letter.
- Lastly, a black Mercedes was taken in control from a parking lot near Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) on March 16. This car was said to be used by Vaze, and it had Rs 5 lakh in cash, note-counting machines, original number plates of the Scorpio, and some clothes resembling a PPE kit. The NIA has also seized Vaze’s laptop, and various incriminating documents have been discovered from Sachin Vaze's office and his residence.
This case continues to also be a situation of the political crisis between the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition government and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Speaking to reporters from Pune in March, Fadnavis said that the arrest indicated that other names will soon come out, and put a question mark on how the probe was carried out earlier.
“This isn’t a small plot. It is a major plot. There are many people involved in this. All those who are involved and the reasons for doing this will come out now,” he said. BJP leader Kirit Somaiya told news agency ANI that Vaze has more than six businesses further and Shiv Sena leaders Sanjay Mashelkar and Vijay Gawai were his business partners.
Vaze was however given support by Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut.“I believe Sachin Vaze is a very honest and capable officer. He has been arrested in connection with gelatin sticks that were found. One suspicious death also occurred. It’s Mumbai Police’s responsibility to investigate the matter. No central team was needed,” Raut told news agency ANI.
What are the unanswered questions to date?
According to BBC, this case opens up to several unanswered questions to date.
- What was the motive behind parking a vehicle packed with explosives close to Mr. Ambani's home?
- Why was it being trailed by another vehicle, which was later found in a police garage?
- Who were the people driving these two SUVs?
- Was the bomb-laden vehicle really stolen?
- Who killed Mr. Hiren? And why?