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Ex-cop, bookie, 93 SIMs, 14 phones, 3 days, WhatsApp — how Mansukh Hiran ‘murder was planned’

Investigators are yet to piece together what unfolded night of 4 March when Mansukh Hiran, owner of SUV found with explosives near Mukesh Ambani's house, went missing.

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New Delhi: Former Mumbai Police constable Vinayak Shinde and bookie Naresh Gor who were arrested in connection with the murder of businessman Mansukh Hiran, used 93 SIM cards and 14 mobile phones between 3 March and 5 March to carry out the crime, sources in the city’s Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) told ThePrint.

Sources said that the men used several WhatsApp accounts on different phones — using the phones just once to send a message — to coordinate with associates and make it difficult for authorities to trace things back to them.

Gor is a cricket bookie while Shinde is a constable who was convicted in a 2006 case of abetment and assisting in the encounter of Lakhan Bhaiyya, an aide of gangster Chhota Rajan. Shinde, Mumbai Police said, was in constant touch with Assistant Police Inspector Sachin Waze and would “help him in all his illegal activities”.

Hiran’s murder, sources said, is connected to the case of the SUV that was found on 25 February near industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s house Antilia, carrying explosive gelatin sticks. Hiran, who was found dead on 5 March, was identified as the owner of the SUV, a Scorpio. His wife said she “strongly suspected” Waze was behind her husband’s murder.

Waze was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on 13 March in connection with the Ambani-SUV case, and is currently in the agency’s custody.

Also read: Mobile mystery in Ambani probe: SUV owner’s phone was 14 km apart in 15 mins day before death

‘Murder plan executed by hard core police officers’

Hiran had left his residence on the night of 4 March saying that he had been called for questioning in connection with the Scorpio by a crime branch official named Tawde.

According to sources, there is no officer with the name Tawde in Mumbai Police’s Crime Branch and it was Shinde who had called him from a phone to “lay a trap”.

Sources said the phones and SIM cards were procured through a “bookie channel”.

“This whole plan was programmed and executed by hard core police officers. These are people who have dealt with hard criminals and have cumulatively done more than 200 encounters and Shinde is one of them. He did it in connivance with Waze and others from his team,” the source said.

“These phones were arranged, calls were made to Hiran asking him to come to a particular location. Then the associates spoke with each other. We have voluminous proof to substantiate this,” the source added.

“It is however still unclear as to what happened that night. Where all did Mansukh go and how did he land in the creek … whether he was killed and then thrown inside the creek, or he was forcefully drowned … This is still a matter of investigation,” the source said.

The Union home ministry transferred Hiran’s murder case to the NIA, which is already investigating the Ambani-SUV case, but the Mumbai ATS said it has not yet received a formal communication on the same. The source added that the agency is “very close to cracking the case”.

The case has become a source of much controversy in Maharashtra, leading to Mumbai’s Commissioner of Police Param Bir Singh being transferred to a low-level posting with the Home Guard, followed by Singh levelling corruption allegations against state home minister, Anil Deshmukh.

The political ramifications of it threaten to destabilise the ruling three-party Maha Vikas Aghadi government led by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, as the BJP mounts pressure demanding Deshmukh’s resignation.

Singh, in a letter to Thackeray and Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari, had claimed that Deshmukh directed Waze and other police officials to collect Rs 100 crore every month from Mumbai’s bars and restaurants.

Also read: Sushant, Covid, Kangana didn’t work in dethroning Maharashtra govt. BJP knows what will

‘Kaam hogaya’

According to the source from ATS, Shinde and Gor were in touch with Waze and others through WhatsApp messages. One message dated 4 March, accessed by the police, read: “Kaam hogaya (work is done).”

“They were in touch with their associates through these SIM cards. Since one SIM was being used to send just one message, the data consumed was very less and it was very difficult to trace the location. It was tough to crack which phone those WhatsApp accounts were being used on, and in which locations. One phone was switched on for such a brief period that it was very difficult to even get its location,” the source said.

“We recovered voluminous data and have gone through minute details to reach some conclusions. Our technical teams have worked tirelessly to untangle such convoluted data to reach the two accused, who have been placed under arrest. We now need to confront them with Waze,” the source said.

When asked about the motive of the murder, the source said that it was still “unknown”.

“We still do not know why Hiran was killed. The motive is still unclear. It will become clear once Waze is interrogated. We have some significant leads … all things will fall in place,” the source said.

Sources in the NIA had told ThePrint that the agency has uncovered evidence against Waze, including fake Aadhaar cards, using which the inspector had checked into five star hotels multiple times with bags of money.

(Edited by Manasa Mohan)

Also read: Fake IDs, 5-star hotel stays, bags of cash — ‘evidence’ NIA claims it has on Mumbai cop Waze


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