Mumbai: Suspended Mumbai Police Assistant Inspector Sachin Waze, who is in the custody of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), maintains a calm demeanour and agility, even as the case for which he has been arrested turns murkier.
This is the second time in his career that Waze, who was one of the Mumbai Police’s ace sharpshooters and more recently, the head of its Crime Intelligence Unit (CIU), has seen a role reversal — from a hardened interrogator to the person being interrogated.
Waze was arrested by the NIA on 13 March for his alleged role in planting explosives outside industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s south Mumbai residence ‘Antilia’. He is also part of an inquiry into the death of businessman Mansukh Hiren, who owned the Mahindra Scorpio car that was found outside ‘Antilia’ with the explosives.
Sources in the NIA said that Waze, during his interrogation, has been allegedly trying to build a watertight alibi for himself and has given several responses – from denials to asking investigators to verify the authenticity of his version to pointing to specific details to prove that he is innocent.
What Waze told NIA
Right at the outset, Waze demanded that his lawyer be present during interrogation and also asked for private meetings with his lawyer. The special NIA court allowed the former, but denied the latter.
In the next few days, Waze allegedly refused to be questioned without his lawyer in the office, prompting NIA to tell the court that he was not cooperating with the investigation. In the explosives case, the NIA has invoked the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against Waze.
On 25 March, Waze told the special court that he has been made a scapegoat and that he has nothing to do with the case.
So far, Waze’s defence related to Hiren’s death has been based on data from mobile towers showing the location of his mobile phones. He has cited this data to prove that he was at the Crime Intelligence Unit (CIU) office on 3 and 4 March, according to sources familiar with the investigation.
Waze has also referred to records pertaining to his presence at a bar in south Mumbai’s Dongri area, where he conducted a search on the night of 4 March, to dismiss allegations related to his involvement in the case, according to sources. Waze had taken help from the police for a search operation at the bar, the sources said.
Investigators at the NIA are looking to breach this alibi, verifying suspicions that Waze had travelled to Thane on 4 March, the day Hiren went missing. The NIA is examining if Waze had left his south Mumbai office on foot on 4 March and is is scouring CCTV footage, including across suburban railway stations, to arrive at a conclusion, sources said.
The NIA is also questioning Waze over suspicions that he and another co-accused were present at a meeting where the plan to target Hiren was hatched, and also if the former had used a phone to contact a ‘conspirator’, sources said.
Volunteering to get statement recorded
On the night of March 4, a man named Tawade, impersonating as a policeman from Kandivali Crime Branch, had allegedly called Hiren, asking him to meet to discuss the case related to the recovery of the Scorpio on February 25.
On March 5, Hiren’s body was recovered from a Mumbra creek. While the probe into Hiren’s death was subsequently handed over to the NIA, it was the Maharashtra ATS that first registered a case of murder on 7 March after recording the statement of Hiren’s wife, who suspected Waze’s involvement in her husband’s death.
Though the chassis number of the Scorpio was found to have been deleted by allegedly by those who abandoned it on February 25, , ostensibly to thwart detection, ATS had tracked down its last oowner, Hiren, after it found the landline number of the car’s financier in the SUV.
ATS had reached Hiren by 11 pm on 25 February to record his statement.
Waze went to the ATS on 8 March asking for his statement to be recorded and denied all allegations against him. He later claimed in a court that the FIR was baseless as it was against unidentified persons and could not point to any motive.
NIA sources are, however, confident that the agency will crack the case soon, unravelling the motives behind the crime.
Meanwhile, a Mumbai court Saturday extended Waze’s NIA custody till Wednesday.
Waze was known as one of the Mumbai Police’s ace sharpshooters from the era of ‘encounter specialists’ and is said to have killed 63 persons in his chequered career.
He was suspended from the force in 2004 and is facing trial under charges of murder and destruction of evidence in the Khwaja Yunus custodial death case.
After repeated attempts to get reinstated, he resigned from the police force in 2007, but his resignation was not accepted. The following year, Waze formally joined the Shiv Sena. He was brought back to the force in June last year after a review committee headed by the then Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh approved his reinstatement.
He has been involved in probing several high-profile cases, including the investigation into alleged rigging of Television Rating Points (TRPs) by TV channels including Arnab Goswami-led Republic TV.