Mumbai: As soon as he landed in Mumbai Thursday morning, former Mumbai Police chief Param Bir Singh drove to the Crime Branch Unit IX office at the city’s western suburb of Kandivali. Until over eight months ago, the IPS officer would have visited this office as its head and the head of the entire police machinery in Mumbai.
On Thursday, however, Singh, who was shunted to the post of Director General Home Guards in March and had not reported to work since May, drove to this office as an accused coming in for questioning in a case in which a local court has declared him a “proclaimed offender”. Singh was questioned for seven hours, according to police sources.
Controversial IPS officer Singh is facing at least five charges of extortion and corruption in the state. In three of these cases, courts have issued non-bailable warrants against him. The Maharashtra government has initiated the process of suspending Singh.
Besides, the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) is conducting two open inquiries against Singh, while the KU Chandiwal Commission has been insisting on Singh’s appearance before it. On Thursday, the panel asked the IPS officer to appear before it reminding his counsel that it has already issued a bailable warrant. If Singh does not appear, “the police will be directed to execute the bailable warrant for appearance of Shri Param Bir Singh,” the commission said, according to court records.
The one-person Chandiwal Commission was formed by the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in Maharashtra to probe Singh’s allegations against former state home minister Anil Deshmukh. Singh ran into controversy in March this year when he wrote an explosive letter to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray alleging that Deshmukh had instructed his officers, including now dismissed cop Sachin Waze, to extort money from Mumbai’s bars and restaurants.
The letter came after the Maharashtra government shunted Singh out from the post of Mumbai Police chief to Director General Home Guards following alleged lapses in the probe into the recovery of explosives outside industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s Mumbai home, Antilia.
Singh went on leave in May this year and surfaced in Mumbai Thursday after the Supreme Court granted him interim relief from arrest Monday. He has told the media that he had been staying in Chandigarh during this time.
The Goregaon case for which Singh visited Crime Branch office
The case for which Singh went to the Crime Branch’s Kandivali office Thursday morning was registered at the Goregaon Police station in August this year, on the basis of a complaint lodged by Bimal Agarwal, a hotelier and civic contractor. Other than Singh, the FIR also named Waze and four others — suspected Dawood Ibrahim aide Riyaz Bhati, alleged hawala operator Alpesh Patel, and two others — Sumit Singh and Vinay Singh.
The accused allegedly extorted Rs 9 lakh from Agarwal for not raiding two bars and restaurants run by him in partnership. He was also allegedly forced to buy two smartphones, worth about Rs 3 lakh, for the accused.
The case was eventually transferred to the Crime Branch and the police arrested Sumit Singh and Patel, while a Mumbai metropolitan magistrate court in October registered a non-bailable warrant against Param Bir Singh, Vinay Singh and Riyaz Bhati in the case.
Earlier this month, a local court declared Singh as a “proclaimed offender” in the case under Section 82 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). According to Section 83 of the CrPc, after issuing such a proclamation, the court can also order that the properties of the accused to be attached.
Allegation of extorting Rs 20 cr from developer
Another case of extortion registered in Mumbai against the city’s former top cop contains allegations that Param Bir Singh, along with other police officers, tried to extort Rs 20 crore from a developer. The Marine Drive police station registered the FIR in July this year, based on a complaint by realtor Shyam Sundar Agarwal.
In his complaint, Agarwal alleged that his former partner Sanjay Punamiya, with whom he parted ways in 2011, used his acquaintance with Singh to intimidate Agarwal by stacking up “false cases” against him.
According to the FIR, the Thane Police had arrested Agarwal in 2017, when Singh was Thane Police Commissioner, under an Urban Land Ceiling and Regulation Act case for allegedly forging documents to avoid surrendering land to the government.
Agarwal in his complaint said Punamiya offered him a settlement through another intermediary who met Agarwal’s nephews at Singh’s residence. The intermediary allegedly threatened to have Agarwal booked under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) if their demands were not met and asked for Rs 20 crore, of which Rs 9 crore was paid.
Agarwal’s complaint further stated that in 2021, when Singh was Mumbai Police chief, Punamiya filed a complaint against Agarwal at the Juhu Police station for alleged threats made to him through gangster Chhota Shakeel.
The Marine Drive police station arrested Punamiya and businessman Sunil Jain in July. A metropolitan magistrate court granted bail to both in September.
The Criminal Investigation Department earlier this month arrested Police Inspector Nandkumar Gopale and Assistant Police Inspector Asha Korke in the case for allegedly threatening Agarwal and extorting money from him at Singh’s behest.
A city magistrate court earlier this month issued a non-bailable warrant against Singh in the case.
Extortion cases in Thane
A day after the Marine Drive FIR was registered, Agarwal’s nephew Sharad Agarwal registered a similar complaint at Thane’s Kopri police station against Singh, a Thane deputy commissioner of police and three civilians. Sharad Agarwal alleged that the accused extorted Rs 2 crore from him and coerced him to hand over some of his plots.
Later in July, the Thane Nagar Police station registered another case of alleged extortion against Singh and six other police persons, including retired former Mumbai Police sharpshooter Pradeep Sharma, who was arrested by the National Investigation Agency in the Antilia explosives case.
The complaint was filed by builder Ketan Tanna who alleged that Singh and the other accused allegedly extorted Rs 1.25 crore from him between January 2018 and February 2019, when Singh was Thane police chief. He alleged that the accused would summon him to the office of the Thane Anti Extortion Cell, which Sharma headed at the time, and threaten him with serious criminal cases. The complainant alleged that the accused also extorted Rs 3 crore from his friend Sonu Jalan, a suspected bookie, in the same manner.
A Thane court issued a non-bailable warrant against Singh and 28 others in the case last month.
In April, the Akola Police registered an FIR against Singh and at least 27 other police personnel on the basis of a complaint filed by police inspector Bhimrao Ghadge, posted at the Akola Police control room. Ghadge, who was posted with the Thane Police between 2015 and 2018, made several allegations of graft against Singh and the others, such as asking him not to chargesheet certain individuals.
He also alleged that when he did not obey the instructions, five FIRs were registered against him and he was suspended. Singh and the others were booked under sections related to criminal conspiracy, destruction of evidence as well as the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The case was subsequently transferred to the Thane Police.
In September, the ACB started an open inquiry against Singh on the complaint of inspector Ghadge. A second open inquiry against the IPS Officer is already underway on graft charges based on a complaint by inspector Anup Dange who alleged that Singh tried to shield people with underworld links when he was head of the ACB.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)