The arrested have been identified as Vinayak Shinde (55), a constable convicted for the fake encounter of Chhota Rajan associate Ram Lakhan Bhaiya in 2007, and Naresh Ramniklal Gore (31), a bookie. Shinde, on parole since May 2020, worked with Sachin Waze in a team led by retired encounter specialist Pradeep Sharma. ATS suspects more policemen are involved in the killing prompted by Mansukh’s reluctance to take the rap for planting the explosives.
Waze is alleged to have ordered the hit but may not have been present when Mansukh was murdered. The digital trail left by Waze and others in communicating with Mansukh and each other helped ATS to nail the suspects.
Gore and Shinde were produced before the Thane ATS court, which remanded them in police custody till March 30. ATS chief Jaijeet Singh said bookie Gore had procured five SIM cards and handed them to Shinde who was in touch with Waze since his release on parole.
These arrests are merely the tip of the iceberg, said an official, adding that more suspects, mostly cops, will be apprehended in a day or two. The two accused have not only admitted to their role but also spilled the beans on Waze and a few more cops who extended logistics support, the official said.
Waze had asked Mansukh to take responsibility for planting the explosives but he refused, officials said. There are two theories regarding Waze’s reasons for fabricating a terror case. “Waze would crack the case and become a super cop. Or he and some other cops including a senior officer were hoping to get into a private security firm being launched by a corporate,” said an official.
Preliminary investigations suggest Waze eliminated Mansukh because he feared the latter would succumb to pressure and disclose the plan. The plot to kill Mansukh was hatched on March 2 during a two-hour meeting Waze held with two colleagues at their headquarters near Crawford Market. It was the same day Waze asked Mansukh to draft a letter through an advocate alleging he was under pressure from police and the media, which was not the case.
Waze’s phone records have established his location near the Ambani residence on the fateful night, an officer said. To build an alibi, he ensured that he did not receive or make any calls from his personal phone on March 4, the day of the murder, the ATS has told the Thane court. In fact, there were only 8 messages on his mobile even though it was not switched off. All communication with accomplices were through SIM cards procured from Gujarat. To strengthen his defence, Waze stayed put at Dongri carrying out searches on hotels till late at night on March 4.
The effort to erase evidence, in fact, began much before. A day after the car was found near the Ambani house, four men from Waze’s team visited Mansukh’s shop in Thane and took away the digital video recorder linked to his CCTV and installed a new one in its place.
Sources said though Waze himself did not take part in killing Mansukh, he was coordinating with the killers and a few cops over the phone. The accused policemen and a few individuals from Thane, who are yet to be arrested, are alleged to have lent logistical support in luring Mansukh to Ghodbunder Road in Thane before attacking him in a moving car and then dumping his body in the Mumbra creek. The prima facie diatom report has indicated that Mansukh was alive when he was thrown in the creek.
“The killers wanted to show that Mansukh committed suicide but things got out of hand, they left digital footprints like the phone call he received at 8.20pm on March 4, prompting him to step out of the house. He is suspected to have been assaulted in a moving car and his body dumped in the Mumbra creek,” said a source.
On Saturday, the government announced the transfer of the case to the National Investigation Agency (NIA). The state ATS is yet to receive the order. It may reach ATS on Monday, by which time it is likely to announce another breakthrough in investigations. The team led by Jaijeet Singh, additional commissioner Shivdeep Lande, deputy commissioner Rajkumar Shinde, ACP Shripad Kale, senior inspector Daya Nayak and Dhole have been investigating the case for the last one week.