DAYS AFTER he was given protection from arrest by the Supreme Court, former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh appeared before the Crime Branch in Mumbai Thursday in connection with an extortion case registered against him.
Senior police officers told The Indian Express that Singh arrived in Mumbai from Chandigarh on a morning flight and approached the Crime Branch Unit XI’s office at Kandivali at around 11.30 am “without prior intimation” in his official vehicle.
“As per Supreme Court directions, I joined the probe today. I will be cooperating with the investigators,” Singh, who is now Director General (Home Guards), told reporters.
At the Crime Branch office, an investigating team headed by an officer of Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) rank recorded Singh’s statement.
The probe pertains to an extortion case registered at the Goregaon police station on August 20 against Singh, dismissed assistant inspector Sachin Waze, who was jailed in the terror scare case, and four others.
The case was registered on a complaint filed by a hotelier and civic contractor, Bimal Agarwal, who alleged that Singh and Waze connived with other accused to extort cash and valuables worth Rs 11.92 lakh from him. The investigation was transferred to the Crime Branch.
During questioning, the officers said, Singh gave “non-satisfactory answers” and claimed that he was in Chandigarh when the Maharashtra government was looking for him. “He gave evasive answers,” said an IPS officer.
Although the Crime Branch did not have a prepared list of questions, officers said it was a “sustained interrogation” that lasted over six hours.
Singh was also asked about “64 phone call conversations” between Waze and Agarwal, which were purportedly recorded by the complainant. In the phone conversations, the officers said, Waze is heard allegedly referring to Singh as “number one”. “Singh told us that he was not aware of this, and that Waze must have done things at his level,” an officer said.
According to the IPS officer, who did not wish to be identified, Singh has not been called for interrogation Friday. “But we may call him again in the future. He has promised investigators that he will appear before the agency whenever we call him,” said the senior officer.
The police had earlier arrested two accused, Sumit Singh and Alpesh Patel, in the case and alleged that both were close associates of Waze. “Subsequently, Waze was also taken into custody from jail and interrogated in the matter,” said the officer.
On Thursday, Singh stepped out of the Crime Branch office at 6.30 pm, along with his lawyer Ramesh Mokashi, before leaving for his official residence at Neelima building in Malabar Hill.
“As per Supreme Court directions, we have joined the probe. We have answered all questions asked by the investigating officer and will continue to cooperate in all the cases. We restrain ourselves from commenting anything further,” Mokashi said.
Singh was Mumbai’s police chief until March when he was shunted out following the Ambani terror scare case and allegations of corruption raised by him against then state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh.
He went on leave in May and had been untraceable since then, according to Mumbai Police, which was looking to detain him for questioning. At least five FIRs have been registered against him in Maharashtra, all on charges of extortion.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Singh’s brother in Chandigarh, Manbir Singh Bhadana, said: “He was with us over the past few days, and also several places close by with people known to him. That is history now, wherever he was. He has returned now… He left for Mumbai on a GoAir flight at 8.30 am.”
In October, Bhadana had told The Indian Express that Singh had come to Chandigarh. “He was staying with us till about three months ago. Then he moved out, we don’t know where,” Bhadana, an advocate, had said. Bhadana jointly owns a house with Singh in Chandigarh’s Sector 27-A, which is where the senior officer was based over the past few days.
Last week, the magistrate court in Mumbai had approved the Crime Branch’s request to declare Singh as a proclaimed offender. On Monday, the Supreme Court granted him protection from arrest after his counsel informed that “he is very much in India but apprehends actions being taken by the state of Maharashtra”.
Following the magistrate court’s order, Crime branch officers had started pasting notices outside Singh’s known addresses and printing them in newspapers directing him to appear before the investigating officer within 30 days. “If he had failed to do so, the investigators could have started the process of attaching his properties,” said an officer.
Apart from the non-bailable warrant issued in the extortion case in Goregaon, two other warrants were issued against Singh in connection with other extortion cases registered in Marine Drive and Thane. The Anti-Corruption Bureau has started two “open inquiries” in cases against Singh.
(Inputs from Varinder Bhatia in Chandigarh)
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