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Saturday, September 25, 2021

NIA chargesheet on Antilia bomb scare : ‘Waze feared ID card was in SUV, came back to site’

The key witness is a Crime Intelligence Unit colleague of Waze who was tailing the SUV driven by the accused in another vehicle and has since claimed that he was misled into believing it was an official assignment.

Written by Sadaf Modak , Mohamed Thaver | Mumbai |
Updated: September 8, 2021 8:27:22 am
Dismissed Mumbai Police API Sachin Waze.

The National Investigation Agency’s chargesheet in the bomb scare outside industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s house addresses a key question that had puzzled investigators probing the case: why did the main accused, dismissed Mumbai Police API Sachin Waze, return to the scene two hours after allegedly parking an SUV there with gelatin sticks and a threat letter inside?

He allegedly feared he had forgotten his police ID in the parked vehicle, according to the statement of a prosecution witness.

The key witness is a Crime Intelligence Unit colleague of Waze who was tailing the SUV driven by the accused in another vehicle and has since claimed that he was misled into believing it was an official assignment.

CCTV footage shows that the SUV was parked at 2.10 am on Carmichael Road in South Mumbai outside the Ambani residence on February 25. It shows a person wearing a long kurta, with a face mask, returning to the spot at 4.30 am and peering inside the SUV.

According to the statement, the two left Waze’s residence in Thane in a Scorpio and an Innova around 1.10 am. After crossing the toll booth at Mulund, Waze switched places with the colleague to drive the Innova in Chembur. The statement says that when the colleague asked Waze about their destination, he was told that it was a “secret” CIU operation.

After they reached Carmichael Road, the statement says, “Waze sat in the Scorpio for around 5 minutes and thereafter he came out from the left side of the Scorpio and walked towards the Innova parked by me behind the Scorpio”.

When they started driving back in the Innova and reached Byculla, Waze told the colleague that he could not find his Mumbai Police identity card. “He asked me to look for it in the dashboard of the Innova. But the card could not be found,” the statement read.

At 3.40 am, when the duo reached Waze’s residence, the main accused told the colleague to wait while he searched for the card inside. Waze soon returned and told the colleague that he had most probably forgotten the card in the Scorpio. The chargesheet does not clarify if Waze eventually found the card or not.

However, statements of Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad (BDDS) and traffic police officials suggest that Waze was anxious once the alarm was raised. A traffic policeman said he had seen Waze in plain clothes around the SUV, inspecting the vehicle, trying to open its doors even as the security head of Antilia was saying that it should not be touched.

According to the statements of BDDS officials, the operation to detect and dispose of the threat was conducted from around 4 pm till 9 pm.

“While we were inspecting the vehicle, Waze was constantly coming close to it. He was looking into the car and outside it. When the dog squad indicated the presence of explosives, considering the gravity of the situation, we asked him why he was coming close to the suspected vehicle and putting the lives of our personnel in danger?” says one of the statements.

According to a statement by another BDDS official, recorded by the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) three days before Waze’s arrest, all the security personnel and others stood at a fair distance from the SUV but Waze was causing a “disturbance” in their operation.

The NIA has also annexed statements of those who were among the first to spot the explosives-laden vehicle.

A senior security personnel at Ambani’s residence, Antilia, told the NIA that while he was speaking to the family member of a deceased Reliance employee near the residence, he spotted a parked dust-covered Scorpio with a new, clean number plate. It was also found that the car had the same number as a Land Rover belonging to the Ambani convoy.

The security in-charge told the NIA in a statement recorded on March 10 that the Ambani family had been receiving threats from various quarters earlier, too, “but all were related to the farmers’ protests that began in October 2020”. The statement said the family does not suspect any particular person for the threats.

It also says that after the incident on February 25, a scheduled visit of Nita Ambani to the airport was cancelled and the security staff put on high alert.

On Friday, the NIA submitted its chargesheet running into over 10,000 pages in the case against 10 accused, including Waze and retired ACP Pradeep Sharma, for the SUV bomb threat — and the murder days later of Thane resident Mansukh Hiran, who had been using the vehicle and had reported its theft.

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