Former Mumbai Police chief Rakesh Maria has reportedly told the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) that he had met Peter Mukerjea (CBI’s accused in the case) for the first time at Khar police station in the city between August and September 2015 while probing the case. He also told the agency that he was not acquainted with Peter and therefore there was no question of scuttling the probe to shield Peter, according to an official privy to case details.
“In his statement, Maria stated that as the Mumbai Police Commissioner, he had visited Khar police station four times during the probe and contrary to reports claiming he was showing ‘keen interest’ in the case, he visited the police station just to ensure that the probe is on the right track. At all the instances, he was only guiding and supervising the probe as the accused (Indrani Mukerjea) was influential and any laxity or oversight on the part of the police would have benefited the accused,” a senior official told The Indian Express. Sources indicated that Maria has provided the exact details of his four visits — the first two for discussing the case with the lawyer, the third to discuss with his probe team on making the arrested accused Shayamvar Rai (former driver of the couple) an approver in the case and the fourth was when he quizzed Peter.
“Maria further revealed that while Peter was called by the probe team at the police station from the very first day of the arrest of his wife, he had met Peter only on September 7 for a brief period. The next day when he was planning to visit the police station to get an update on Peter, he learnt about his promotion and transfer,” the official said.
During questioning, Maria stated that even after his transfer as DG, Home Guards, the state government had told him to ‘continue to supervise the probe’, but he had declined as he was no more the Mumbai Police chief and his interference would have led to two power centres confusing the probe team.
When quizzed whether he was trying to shield Peter, Maria reportedly told CBI officials that the case was cracked when he was the Mumbai police chief and if he wanted to shield Peter he would have never opened the case in the first place.
“He has categorically denied knowing Peter even as an acquaintance. He claims it was on September 7 that he met him at Khar police station and questioned him for a brief period. Around the same time, the probe team had started gathering material on the News-X deal and he was informed about the money made by the couple through the deal. He was planning to dwell on that angle but he was promoted and transferred mid-way through the probe,” the official said.
“Maria has only mentioned that Rahul had told him he had approached four police stations (Worli, Bandra, MIDC and Khar) to lodge a missing complaint after Sheena’s disappearance in April 2012 and had visited these police stations along with his mother, Shabnam but he was turned away as the police would call Indrani who would in turn inform police that Sheena had settled in USA with her new boyfriend,” an official said. “Maria has said that if the missing complaint would have been probed in 2012, the case would had come to light then,” the official said.
Sources indicated that during questioning, Maria mentioned that on September 7, when he briefly interrogated Peter in presence of other officials of the probe team, Peter had told him that he had approached Joint Commissioner of Police, (Law and Order) Deven Bharti in 2012 when Sheena went missing.
Bharti is already a CBI witness and his statements have been attached in the previous chargesheets filed by the central agency.
“Bharti’s statement is strong evidence against Peter in the case as it reveals that despite being aware that Sheena was killed, Peter and Indrani cooked up a story and approached Bharti to locate her mobile tower location so as to convince Rahul of their lie and to sell him the USA story,” the official said.
Sources also said that Maria was quizzed on his acquaintance with Sohail Buddha, a former Mumbai police officer employed with the broadcast media group that Peter was associated with. “Maria has revealed that while he knew Buddha as he was a former assistant police inspector with Mumbai Police and had worked with him but it was during interrogation of Shayamvar Rai that he first learnt Rai was a driver with Buddha’s company,” the official said.
“The defence lawyers will rake up the issue of Mumbai top cops trying to shield Peter … We therefore recorded their statements to ensure the defence does not use this to their advantage and thereby delay the trial. We don’t suspect that they (Mumbai cops) were trying to shield him,” the official said.
According to sources, the CBI recorded the statement of three senior IPS officers, Maria, Bharti and Deputy Commissioner of Police Satyanarayan Chaudhary around a fortnight ago.