NIA forensic experts investigate seized high-end cars, in connection with a probe into the recovery of explosives from a car parked near industrialist Mukesh Ambanis house in Mumbai, 19 March 2021 | PTI
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Mumbai: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) Friday arrested Mumbai Police officer, Inspector Sunil Mane, suspected of assisting suspended cop Sachin Waze in the conspiracy around the recovery of explosives outside industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s home in south Mumbai. 

Mane is the third Mumbai Police officer to be arrested in the case, after suspended Assistant Police Inspector (API) Waze, who was arrested on 13 March, and suspended API Riyaz Qazi, who was held on 11 April.

The NIA is verifying if Mane had met Waze on 3 March, two days before the body of Mansukh Hiren, the owner of the explosives-laden SUV found outside Antilia, was recovered from the Mumbra creek, NIA sources said. 

“There are witnesses who claim the accused, Mane, met Sachin Waze at his office in the first week of March. We want to know about all aspects of the conspiracy,” an NIA source said. 

Mane was arrested by the NIA after he was called for questioning to examine his role in the bomb scare case and will be produced before a court later Friday.

Also read: Sachin Waze’s aide Riyaz Qazi gets judicial custody till 23 April in Ambani bomb threat case

The case 

On 25 February, an explosives-laden SUV was recovered from near Antilia by the police. A week later, on 5 March, the body of the vehicle’s last owner, Thane automobile accessories dealer Mansukh Hiren, was recovered from the Mumbra creek in Thane by the local police. 

Hiren had gone missing the night before, on 4 March, and his mobile phone was found to be switched off after 11 pm, sources said. 

On 7 March, the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) had registered a murder case against unidentified persons based on the statement of Hiren’s wife, who suspected he had been murdered, after the case was handed over to it by the state government along with the bomb scare case. Later, NIA took over both the cases from the ATS.  

Mane denied any wrongdoing 

Sources said Waze had called Hiren at his office as the former, being the then head of Mumbai Crime Branch’s Crime Intelligence Unit (CIU), was probing the bomb scare case. NIA sources suspect that Mane too was part of the meeting. 

The NIA is verifying if in the meeting, Waze tried to convince Hiren to take upon himself the blame in the SUV recovery case and that the latter had been unwilling to comply. Sources from the NIA said Mane will be questioned regarding this. 

Mane, however, has denied any wrongdoing or his role in the explosives-recovery case, NIA sources added. 

Waze, too, has in court denied having any role in either the planting of explosives outside Antilia or the alleged murder of Hiren.

Also read: The mystery of Ambani bomb threat — gelatin in SUV, murky death of its owner & a Mumbai cop

Mane third Mumbai Police cop to be arrested in 40 days 

The NIA had earlier arrested four persons, including Waze, Qazi, a former police constable and a cricket bookie. Qazi was arrested on 11 April by the NIA for allegedly assisting his former CIU boss, Waze, in the explosives recovery case.

Waze, who was transferred to the Citizen Facilitation Centre a few days before his arrest, is currently under judicial custody till 23 April. 

Last month, following Waze’s arrest, the Mumbai Police had transferred 86 policemen, including 65 officers from various crime branch units, including Mane, who was shifted from unit 11 (Kandivali West) to Mulund police station. 

In May last year, Mane was shifted from a crime branch unit to the Modus Operandi Bureau after allegations surfaced against him in a case. 

The Crime Branch had, however, clarified then that Mane was shifted due to an “administrative” exercise.

Mane had also come under the scanner of Maharashtra ATS when it was probing the SUV case. 

Maharashtra ATS’s Additional Commissioner of Police Shivdeep Lande, who supervised the probe in the SUV case, told ThePrint, “ATS’s probe had gathered some puts on Sunil Mane in the SUV case and we had called him for questioning in the last week of March. But the day he was called for questioning by us, a court had directed ATS to stop the probe in the case immediately and to hand over the case records to the NIA.”

“Mane came after the stipulated deadline given by the court and so the ATS could not question him,” he said.

The Waze-led CIU probed the Antilia case until Hiren’s body was recovered from Mumbra creek on 5 March. Later, the bomb scare case as well the probe into Hiren’s death were transferred to the ATS, and subsequently to the NIA.

Qazi, who was interrogated by the NIA multiple times to verify his role, was shunted from the CIU to the Local Arms Division on 24 March by the police department. Qazi has denied all allegations against him in the case. 

(Edited by Debalina Dey)

Also read: ‘Time to say goodbye to world is coming’ — Mumbai cop under probe in Ambani bomb scare case


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