March 9, 2021 4:43:07 am
THE NATIONAL Investigation Agency (NIA) on Monday took over the investigation into the February 25 incident outside the South Mumbai residence of industrialist Mukesh Ambani, where a vehicle was found parked with gelatin sticks and a threat letter inside.
Two related cases — that of the theft of the vehicle, a Mahindra Scorpio SUV, from Vikhroli on February 17; and the mysterious death of its owner, 46-year-old Thane resident Mansukh Hiren, remain with the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS).
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray described the Centre’s decision to ask the NIA to take over the case as “fishy”. He also questioned the Centre’s silence on the suicide of Mohan Delkar, the seven-term MP from Dadra and Nagar Haveli.
In a statement, the NIA said it had “received orders from MHA, GOI for investigation of case FIR 35/2020 registered at PS Gamdevi on 25.02.2021”. The case “relates to recovery of explosives from a Mahindra Scorpio parked at Carmichael Road, Mumbai”, the statement said, adding that “NIA is in the process of re-registering the case.”
The terror scare case, along with the cases related to the death of Hiren and theft of his vehicle, were transferred to the Maharashtra ATS on Friday. State Home Minister Anil Deshmukh had expressed confidence that the state police would successfully investigate the cases.
Speaking to reporters after the Assembly session on Monday, Chief Minister Thackeray, with Deputy CM Ajit Pawar standing next to him, said, “The Maharashtra Home Minister had given the probe to ATS. Any government that comes has the same machinery as the earlier Maharashtra government did. We have full confidence and faith in this machinery and hence the probe was given to ATS. The central government’s move to transfer the case to NIA appears fishy. We will not stop until we find out the truth.”
On the unrelated case of Delkar, who was found dead in a hotel room in Mumbai on February 23, Thackeray said: “Like this probe, the suicide of MP Mohan Delkar is serious too, but on that issue the opposition (BJP) does not appear to have anything to say. Everyone knows under whose control Union Territories come. A seven-term MP got so frustrated that he came to Mumbai to commit suicide. It is embarrassing for the administration there (Dadra and Nagar Haveli). We found a suicide note that had some allegations. We will conduct a detailed inquiry and whoever is responsible, no matter how big the person is, will be punished.”
The Chief Minister recalled that former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee would say ‘sarkarein aati jaati hain, desh rehna chahiye’ (governments come and go, the country should remain); “similarly, governments come and go but the reputation of the state machinery should not be tarnished. The opposition is doing that. It appears to say that Maharashtra has no facility, and only the central government is capable”.
Former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had said that Hiren had spoken by phone to the previous investigating officer in the Ambani security scare case, API Sachin Vaze, in June-July last year. He had also alleged that Vaze had reached Antilia, the Ambani residence on Carmichael Road, even before the local police.
Fadnavis had demanded an investigation by the NIA into these “suspicious coincidences”. Vaze has denied that he was first at the spot, and argued that his knowing Hiren was not relevant to the case.
On the same day that Fadnavis made these allegations, Hiren’s body was found floating near Reti Bunder in Mumbra. He had been questioned several times by various agencies after it came to light that the Scorpio outside the Ambani home had been used by him.
Hiren had told police that while driving from Thane to Crawford Market on February 17, his vehicle had broken down at Vikhroli, and he had taken a cab to his destination, leaving it behind. When he went back the next day, the vehicle was missing – and was found outside Antilia on February 25.
Meanwhile, investigations have revealed that on the night that Hiren went missing, his two mobile phones were switched on and off at a gap of around 30 minutes, at locations 8-10 km apart.
One phone was switched on and off in Vasai, and about half an hour later, the other was switched on and off at Tungareshwar. The two phones are yet to be tracked.
Police suspect the switching on and off of the phones is a red herring, to try to show that Hiren was at those locations when he might have been already dead.
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