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Friday, April 23, 2021

Explained: Who is Sachin Vaze?

Why was Sachin Vaze arrested by the NIA? How did he become a suspect in the case? Is there a link between Vaze and Shiv Sena? What was the custodial death case for which he was suspended? When did Vaze quit the police force?

Written by Mohamed Thaver , Edited by Explained Desk | Mumbai |
March 14, 2021 11:11:54 am
Assistant Police Inspector Sachin Vaze

Sachin Hindurao Vaze was arrested late on Saturday (March 13) by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is investigating the February 25 bomb scare outside Antilia, the south Mumbai residence of industrialist Mukesh Ambani. Vaze has been remanded in NIA custody till March 25.

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Who is Sachin Vaze?

Vaze is an Assistant Police Inspector of the Mumbai Police. He was one of the original group of Mumbai’s so-called “encounter specialists” alongside Pradeep Sharma and Daya Naik. He returned to the force in 2020 after a 16-year hiatus, for part of which he was under suspension, after which he quit the force.

Why was Sachin Vaze arrested by the NIA?

The details are as yet not known. NIA has charged him with sections relating to conspiracy, criminal intimidation, negligent conduct in dealing with explosives, forgery, and possession of counterfeit seal.

How did Sachin Vaze become a suspect in the case?

Vaze, who was in the Crime Intelligence Unit (CIU), was virtually leading the investigation into the security scare outside Antilia. While there was no breakthrough in the case, startling allegations made by former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis introduced a fresh twist, which put Vaze front and centre in the mystery.

Fadnavis alleged that Vaze had been in frequent touch with Mansukh Hiren, a Thane man with a car decor business who had been in possession of the vehicle that sparked the security scare outside Antilia in Mumbai’s Carmichael Road.

Mukesh Ambani bomb scare The car outside Mukesh Ambanis’ residence in Mumbai. (Express Photo/File)

Hiren had reported it stolen the week before the Antilia incident. Fadnavis read out in the Assembly from call data record details of phone calls between Vaze and Hiren.

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

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

On the same day as Fadnavis made these allegations, Hiren’s body was found floating in Kalwa creek. His wife alleged that Vaze was behind Hiren’s murder. She also alleged that the Scorpio had been with Vaze for several months until February 5 this year.

Faced with accusations that the Shiv Sena-led state government, and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, were shielding Vaze, the government took him off the case first, then transferred him out of CIU.

With allegations swirling about his role, the NIA questioned him for nearly 12 hours on Saturday, prior to his arrest. Earlier, the Maharashtra ATS had also questioned him.

Is there a link between Sachin Vaze and Shiv Sena?

Vaze used to be a Shiv Sainik in the period that he quit the force after a long suspension. Unusually, for a policeman who was under a cloud for a custodial death — the case against him is still being heard — he was rehabilitated in June 2020.

Mansukh Hiren murder case, Thane resident, Antilia, stolen Scorpio, Kalwa creek, Mansukh Hiren, Mukesh Ambani, Mumbai Police, indian express Mansukh Hiren

His reinstatement was explained as a Covid-19 measure to tide over staff shortage. But Vaze was no staff filler.

Within days of being taken back into the force, Vaze was moved to the Mumbai Crime Branch and made in charge of the CIU. Soon after, he began probing cases such as the fake social media followers case in which rapper Badshah was summoned. 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 to the Hrithik Roshan fake e-mail case.

What was the custodial death case for which he was suspended?

Vaze was one of four policemen charged with murder and destruction of evidence in the custodial killing of 27-year-old engineer Khwaja Yunus, who worked in Dubai and had been picked up in Mumbai in 2002 under the Prevention Of Terrorism Act (POTA). Police had alleged Yunus and three other men were involved in a bomb blast in Ghatkopar on December 2, 2002. The four men were interrogated and Yunus was last seen in custody by the other three on January 6, 2003.

The police version was that Yunus escaped from custody while they were taking him to Aurangabad on January 6-7 of that year. On a High Court order, the state CID investigated his disappearance and found it to be a case of custodial death. The trial of the four policemen is pending as the judge was transferred in 2018.

Vaze’s re-induction into the force last year — and that of the other 3 suspects in the Yunus murder — shocked the engineer’s family. They have moved the High Court against it.

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When did Sachin Vaze quit the police force?

Vaze, who first joined the force in 1990, began his career with a posting in Gadchiroli. Later, he moved to Thane police, from where he moved to the Mumbai Police Crime Branch and acquired the reputation of an “encounter specialist”. His rise in the force came to a halt after he was booked in the Khwaja Yunus case. That led to his suspension.

He quit in 2007 after his pleas to the Mumbai Police for reinstatement got no traction at the time, and joined the Shiv Sena. In 2010, he also 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 attack who later turned approver. Away from the force, his services appear to have been used by some investigative agencies. He was also roped in by news channels as an “expert”.

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