Mumbai Police have arrested a 51-year-old man after a south Mumbai businessman alleged that he cheated him by selling the expensive parts of his vintage luxury car. The complainant, Devkumar Vaidya, belongs to the founding family of Zandu Pharmaceuticals Ltd and is on the board of directors of Vintage Wines. The car, a Jaguar Mark VII from the early 1950s and worth Rs 50 lakh, was allegedly stripped of its parts while the accused, Prashant Kotian, also allegedly took nearly Rs 4 lakh from the complainant for its repairs. Vaidya, a Napean Sea Road resident, told police that the car was purchased by his father in June 2002 from a Gujarat-based person. Since his father’s death in 2006, Vaidya has been taking care of the car. Vaidya told The Indian Express, “The car meant a lot to me. We restored the car from scratch. There is a history behind it.”
In his statement to police, Vaidya said Kotian called him in 2007 claiming to be the owner of a garage in Sion Koliwada where vintage cars are repaired. Kotian even took Vaidya to a restaurant owned by a man who claimed he had given the former seven vintage cars for repairs. “I wanted to paint the car and it needed some small repairs so I gave my car to Kotian on December 27, 2007. He claimed that the cost would be Rs 11 lakh and that he needed a year’s time for the repairs as parts of vintage cars are difficult to find. “For my reassurance I even went to check his garage and handed him a cheque of Rs 1.5 lakh,” said Vaidya in his statement to the police.
Later, Kotian took another Rs 50,000 from Vaidya as the car was registered in Gujarat and would need to be re-registered in Maharashtra. “On August 8, 2008, Kotian started demanding more money, following which I asked him to show me my car. I went to his garage and saw my car, following which I handed him another cheque for Rs 2 lakh,” Vaidya told the police. Kotian’s phone became unavailable a few months later, and Vaidya looked for him till 2015, following which he asked a friend to help. His friend managed to get an alternative number of the accused from the Sion garage, but Kotian allegedly refused to give any information about Vaidya’s car.
Finally, in July 2017, Vaidya received a call from a man named Shahrukh Engineer whom Kotian had reportedly given the car to, for repairs. “On August 2, I went to Sewri along with Engineer to see my car. They had removed the paint and several inner parts were also missing. When I inquired about the missing seats, engine and the steering wheel, he said he would take these from Kotian and fix them,” Vaidya told police. Later, Vaidya stumbled on a report on the Internet about Kotian allegedly duping another person of a vintage car. He then approached the Malabar Hill police station and filed a complaint.
Kotian was nabbed last week from his Antop Hill residence and booked under sections 406 (punishment for criminal breach of trust) and 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property) of the Indian Penal Code. An investigating officer said, “We are still trying to ascertain the modus operandi of the accused. Kotian dismantled the car and sold its parts. We had to visit Rajkot and Rajasthan to recover parts.”
Senior police inspector Vinod Kamble from Malabar Hill police station said the investigation in the case is ongoing.