A diamond robbery in which two policemen waylaid a courier firm’s employees, allowing accomplices to flee with 60 packets of diamonds worth around Rs 5.5 crore left unguarded in a car, was solved by Bandra police in November last year, thanks to an innocuous detail in the complainant’s reconstruction of how he was robbed.
The police’s suspicions were aroused when the firm’s manager told them his driver had slowed down between Bandra and Kherwadi. When grilled by interrogators, the driver claimed he had slowed down along that stretch to look at couples getting cosy on the side of the road. However, sustained interrogation led to a breakthrough in the case.
After the Maruti Swift transporting the diamonds was stolen from Kherwadi Junction on November 14 last year, it took the police just two days to link the driver employed by the courier company and the men in police uniform who had stopped the car on its way to the Sahar air cargo terminal.
“The robbery was well-planned. The only thing left to do was to figure out the mastermind and his connections with the two policemen,” said sub-inspector Rajendra Kane.
When police officers found that another vehicle had been tailing the Maruti Swift, they asked the driver Khusubuddin Mustafa Shaikh (26) pointed questions and his replies confirmed that he had tipped off the robbers.
At 10.15 pm on November 14, Amit Soni, manager with Sai courier services, left his Kalbadevi office with the consignment of 60 packets of diamonds in a grey Maruti Swift with Shaikh at the wheel. The vehicle was intercepted by two persons in police uniform who accused them of rash driving. While the men asked Soni and Shaikh to follow them to the nearby Kherwadi police station, their accomplices sat in the Maruti Swift and drove off with the diamonds.
After Soni and Shaikh reported the robbery to Bandra police, they were questioned. On interrogating Shaikh and checking his call records, he allegedly revealed that he had given a tip-off about the consignment to his brother Nasir Shaikh (27) who had planned the heist.
“We initially assumed that impostors posing as policemen had committed the crime. However, Shaikh told us that the two men in uniform were actually from the force,” said DCP (Zone IX) Cherring Dorje.
“We detained Nasir from his residence in Navi Mumbai. Nasir revealed that he had gathered around 10 people, including policemen and criminals, for the robbery and had promised an equal share to them all,” said Kane.
Nasir allegedly told the police that he had contacted his acquaintance Bhagaji Jhavre (35), who drove the DCP (Crime Branch) Navi Mumbai’s vehicle. He, in turn, allegedly recruited his constable friend Mayur Dengade (27).
Mayur then allegedly asked his Pune-based friend Abhijit Salunkhe (25), who had a criminal record, to arrange for a couple of men. Salunkhe allegedly got three men for the job and also roped in sub-inspector Mahadev Dengle (38). Salunkhe was a friend of Dengle’s relative and invited him for a party on the pretext that a policeman’s presence would impress his friends.
Dengle was attached to Marol police training unit in Andheri (Eeat), where his duty was to train newly-recruited police constables.
Police said when Soni left his office with Shaikh, Nasir informed Jhavre and Salunkhe, who were waiting at Worli and took a taxi to follow the Maruti Swift. The Swift had crossed Mahim Causeway and was on the stretch below the Bandra flyover when Dengle and Dengade, who were waiting at the stretch dressed in uniform, shouted out to Shaikh and told him to stop as he was driving rashly.
Adhering to the plan, Shaikh pulled up.
Dengle did not allow Soni to make any phone calls and asked him and Shaikh to leave the car where it was and head to the nearby Kherwadi police station. While Shaikh and Soni left for the police station, the other accused sped away with the car and the diamonds. After the heist, they abandoned the Maruti Swift in Dharavi and went to a friend’s flat in Vashi, where Shaikh joined them later. They divided the loot among themselves and returned to their homes the next day.
After their arrest, Shaikh and Nasir allegedly revealed the names of all the others involved. However, they knew Dengade only by his first name Mayur and that he stayed in Navi Mumbai. On reaching the address in Navi Mumbai, the Bandra police officers found a police colony with three persons named Mayur staying there. “We had by then learnt that Mayur worked at the Navi Mumbai Commissionerate. We took Nasir along to identify Mayur as he was the link between Nasir and the policemen,” said Kane.
On reaching the commissionerate office, they learnt of Mayur Dengade (27), who had been attached to the crime branch unit 1 since 2010.
“I asked Nasir to stand outside the premises and asked a friend to call Mayur to the canteen for a cup of tea. We knew we had to handle the matter tactfully as Mayur was in uniform in public,” said Kane.
The moment Dengade stepped into the canteen, Nasir signalled to Kane that he was the one they were after. Kane introduced himself to Dengade. He placed his palm on Dengade’s shoulder and suggested they talk in private.
“I whispered in Mayur’s ear that he should just accept the facts. Mayur hesitated and was about to leave but I told him that he should have got the hint when he noticed my hand on his shoulder,” said Kane.
Asked what was he doing in Mumbai on his day off, Dengade said he had gone to meet a friend at the DG office in Colaba. “His cellphone showed that his location at the time was in Khar and we asked him what he was doing at the DG office at night. Mayur confessed,” said Kane. Dengle, Salunkhe and the others allegedly involved were subsequently arrested.
Police recovered most of the stolen loot and returned the diamonds to the jewellers concerned recently.
Former Apple executive and Dwarka MLA Adarsh Shastri has also been included in the spokespersons’ list.