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Mumbai: Assassins hired to kill key figure in gambling syndicate arrested

Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Milind Bharambe said that Vinod had contacted his former cellmate at Arthur Road jail, Basheer Suleiman alias Mama – currently based at Manchester in UK – to arrange for contract killers.

By: Express News Service | Mumbai | December 23, 2020 3:54:50 am
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More than 12 years after Suresh Bhagat, the head of a syndicate of “matka” gambling, was murdered and his wife Jaya Chedda conspired about it, the Mumbai Police last week arrested Suresh’s brother Vinod (69), along with four others, for allegedly conspiring to kill Jaya (57) and her sister Asha Bhatt.

The police are trying to find if there is a financial reason behind the Rs 60-lakh supari given to contract killers or if it was Vinod plotting revenge for his brother’s murder.

Jaya, who along with five others, including her son Hitesh and lover Suhas Rege, was convicted of Suresh’s murder in 2013, has been out on bail since the past year. Suresh was killed on June 13, 2008, as his car was rammed by a truck on the Alibag-Pen road when he was returning home from a court hearing.

Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Milind Bharambe said that Vinod had contacted his former cellmate at Arthur Road jail, Basheer Suleiman alias Mama – currently based at Manchester in UK – to arrange for contract killers. Suleiman had contacted Ramveer Sharma alias Pandit (39), a resident of Bijnor in Uttar Pradesh, for the same.

Incidentally, Vinod, Suleiman and Sharma had been arrested in Ahmedabad in 2012 for a plan to kill another person linked to the matka business. Vinod had met Suleiman in 2007 when they were both lodged at Arthur Road jail.

Sharma roped in Mohammad Shabbir Darji (31) and Maqsood Qureshi (35), both from Bijnor, and Mohammad Ansari (41), a Dharavi resident, for the murder.

An amount of Rs 60 lakh had been agreed upon to carry out the killing of the two sisters who were staying at a flat in Ghatkopar, said police.

DCP Akbar Pathan said there are two possible motives the police are working on. The primary one is that once Jaya was released from prison, she tried to control the matka business and may have hurt the interests of Vinod. When she was behind bars, her sister Asha, along with a brother, was running the matka business and Vinod too had his own network.

“We suspect that after Jaya came out of jail, she would have taken over Vinod’s network, prompting him to plan their murders,” Pathan added.

The second motive behind the killing could be Vinod trying to take revenge for Suresh’s murder that was plotted by Jaya. “Ever since Suresh’s murder, Jaya had been mainly behind bars. This was the only time she was out for long,” an officer said.

Pathan said that as per their probe so far, the hit job was to be carried out in February as part payments for the supari amount had been paid. “However, we suspect due to the lockdown, they had to delay their plan. The accused in the last few weeks had come to the Ghatkopar several times to conduct a recce. We suspect they would have carried out the murders in the next few days,” the officer said.

Around four days ago, a team led by Inspector Nandkumar Gopale of Crime Branch (unit IX), received a tip off that some men had come to the city with an intention to kill the sisters. The police went on to arrest Darji from Khar on Friday and found two country revolvers, two cellphones and six live cartridges in addition to the photograph of a woman.

Based on his interrogation, the others were arrested. Suleiman has been named as a wanted accused in the case and the police are set to write to the UK authorities to begin the process of getting his custody.

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