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Saturday, April 17, 2021

Mumbai: Officer under lens in Ambani case heads several high-profile cases

He was rehabilitated in June 2020 after a 16-year suspension for his alleged role in the custodial death of a 27-year-old man, Khwaja Yunus, in 2003, and swiftly became the Mumbai Police's go to man for all its high-profile cases.

Written by Mohamed Thaver | Mumbai |
March 7, 2021 1:22:03 am
Top cop: Don’t get into arguments, take law into your own handsThe police chief asked juniors to ensure that they avoided functions like birthday and retirement parties at police stations. (File)

Assistant Police Inspector Sachin Hindurao Vaze, who was taken off as the Investigating Officer (IO) of the Antilia security scare case on Thursday, is one of Mumbai Police’s so called “encounter specialists”.

He was rehabilitated in June 2020 after a 16-year suspension for his alleged role in the custodial death of a 27-year-old man, Khwaja Yunus, in 2003, and swiftly became the Mumbai Police’s go to man for all its high-profile cases.

His reinstatement was explained as a Covid-19 measure to tide over staff shortage. But Vaze was no staff filler. Despite his relatively junior position in the hierarchy, he was soon handling every important case in Mumbai – from the Television Ratings Point (TRP) scam to leading the team that arrested Arnab Goswami in the Anvay Naik suicide case to the Dilip Chhabria case and the Hrithik Roshan fake email case.

It sent the message down the line that he enjoyed the trust of Mumbai Police Commissioner Parambir Singh. During his suspension, Vaze was associated with the Shiv Sena.

His removal as the IO in the Antilia case came days before Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly, Devendra Fadnavis, raised questions over his role in the case.

On the day Mansukh Hiren, whose stolen vehicle was used in the security scare outside Mukesh Ambani’s home, was found dead in mysterious circumstances, Fadnavis alleged in the Assembly that Vaze knew the man and had several phone conversations with him last year.

A police officer said that call records show Vaze only had two conversations with the deceased but did not specify in what context did the conversations take place.

The BJP leader has also alleged that Vaze was the first person to reach the spot where the stolen Scorpio vehicle was parked outside the Ambani residence. Vaze has denied that he reached the spot first.

The Mumbai Police, while denying that he was ever removed from the probe, said that an ACP was made the IO in the case, as it was a sensitive matter and also to help Vaze with the workload.

Speaking to the media, Fadnavis said, “It could be a coincidence but the sheer number of coincidences with regards to Vaze in this case is more than what can be found in a Bollywood film.”

Within days of returning to the force, Vaze was moved to the Mumbai Police Crime Branch and made in charge of the Crimes Investigation Unit. Soon after, he began handling probes such as the fake social media followers case in which rapper Badshah was summoned, before moving on to the TRP case and leading the Raigad Police team to arrest Goswami from his Worli residence. He also led raids on hookah parlours at night.

His prominence in the force caused some heartburn among his colleagues.

When contacted, Vaze refused to comment.

Vaze, who first joined the force in 1990, began his career with a posting in Gadchiroli. Later, he was moved to Thane Police from where he was shifted to Mumbai Police Crime Branch and acquired the reputation of being an “encounter specialist”.

His rise in the force halted in 2003 when he was booked in the Khwaja Yunus case.

On December 25, 2002, Yunus and three others was arrested by the Mumbai Police under Prevention of Terrorism Activities (POTA) Act for their alleged role in a bomb blast at Ghatkopar on December 2. On January 6, 2003, the last day Yunus was seen alive, his then co-accused had seen him being stripped and severely assaulted in the lock-up.

Later, the police claimed that Vaze and three others were taking Yunus to Aurangabad to follow a lead when that the vehicle they were traveling in met with an accident and he escaped. Based on an inquiry by the POTA court, the CID had booked Vaze and the three constables on charges of murder. The trial is still underway.

After being suspended in 2003, Vaze resigned in 2007 and joined the Shiv Sena. Known to be good with technology, in 2010 he started a social networking site called ‘lai bhari’. Vaze also claimed to have developed a software to “hear people’s phone conversations and access their messages”.

He has written two books, one on the Sheena Bora murder case and the other on David Headley, the LeT operative involved in the 26/11 terror attacks, who later turned approver. Away from the force, his services were also used by some investigative agencies and he had appeared on news channels as an “expert”.

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