Private detective Satish Mangle and his wife have been arrested by the Thane police for allegedly blackmailing senior IAS officer Radheshyam Mopalwar and demanding Rs 10 core to drop corruption complaints against him. The arrests were made on Thursday.
Mangle had been engaged by Mopalwar’s estranged wife to gather evidence to support her divorce case. The police said that in the process, he recorded conversations between Mopalwar and other individuals in which illegal financial dealings were allegedly discussed.
On October 23, Mangle, his wife Shraddha and friend Anil Vedmehta allegedly got in touch with Kling Mishra, a friend of Mopalwar. Thane police Commissioner Parambir Singh said the trio met Mishra at Kharegoan toll plaza on Nashik Highway and offered to hand over the audio tapes and withdraw their cases of corruption if Mopalwar paid them Rs 10 crore.
Singh said the accused repeated their offer at a later meeting in Bhiwandi. “The couple met Mopalwar at the JW Marriott Hotel in Mumbai on October 31 and agreed to accept Rs 7 crore,” said Singh.
According to the police, the accused also threatened to have Mopalwar and his daughter killed if he failed to pay up.
After Mopalwar complained to the police, the Anti Extortion Cell of the Thane Police Crime Branch allegedly caught Mangle and his wife Shradhha accepting Rs 1 crore at their home in Dombivali on Thursday.
The police said several laptops, cellphones, pen drives and CDs were seized from their home. The police said Satish Mangle, who has studied till Class X and had left a diploma course in computer engineering halfway, has been working as a private detective for the past 10 years and has cases of extortion and rape registered against him in Bandra and Mira Road.
Mopalwar has been on leave since August, when Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis removed him from his post as the vice-chairman and managing director of the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC). He was removed after CDs containing recordings of phone calls of Mopalwar allegedly demanding bribes were released in the public domain.
The Maharashtra government had appointed a three-member committee, headed by former chief secretary Johnny Joseph, to probe the veracity of the clips. The committee is yet to submit its findings.
Within hours of the police announcing the arrest of Mangle, a statement was released by employees of a public relations firm, Perfect Relations, which is handling communications for the Samruddhi Corridor being built by the MSRDC.
The statement referred to Mangle’s arrest and said he had made allegations against Mopalwar only to extort money and he had been defaming the former MSRDC head for the past 14 months. “To extort money, Mangle had also leveled serious personal allegations against Mopalwar who was given the responsibility of the proposed Maharashtra Samruddhi Mahamarg,” read the statement.
The employees claimed that the statement was sent in a personal capacity and not as an official release for the government agency. “We have sent it from our personal mail addresses as it is not an official release and it is only out of goodwill… In our professional capacity, we only do public relations for the Samruddhi Corridor,” said one of the employees of the PR firm.
Mopalwar said the agency employees, being his friends, were helping him out. “I have seen the press release and they are helping me in a personal capacity. They are my friends and they are doing what they can to help me,” Mopalwar said.
The MSRDC, meanwhile, has denied that it had anything to do with the statement. “We are not concerned with the activities of Perfect Relations. We have signed a contract with Indian Magic Eye for the media handling and they have taken the PR firm on board,” Kiran Kurundkar, the Joint Managing Director, MSRDC, said.