THE NATIONAL Investigation Agency (NIA) on Thursday arrested retired Mumbai Police officer Pradeep Sharma and two others for their alleged involvement in the Antilia bomb scare case and the murder of businessman Mansukh Hiran.
The NIA told the Special Court that Hiran was murdered at the behest of Sharma and dismissed Mumbai Police officer Sachin Waze. It said the two others arrested on Thursday — Satish Tirupati Mothkuri and Manish Soni — had carried out the killing.
Special Judge Prashant Sitre sent the three men to NIA custody till June 28. With this, 10 people have been arrested in the case so far.
The NIA said Mothkuri and Soni had smothered and killed Hiran in a red Tavera vehicle on March 4 and thrown his body into a creek. Two others arrested last week, Santosh Shelar and Anand Jadhav, are alleged to have been in the vehicle too.
The NIA said it had recovered the vehicle in which Hiran was killed and sent it for forensic analysis. The four men were given “huge amounts of cash” which has been recovered, and a probe is on to find out the source, it said.
“After Hiran’s murder, Sachin Waze and Pradeep Sharma were contacted by them. We are probing the gravity of the larger conspiracy. The question is why were they, one ex-cop (Sharma) and one serving policeman (Waze), being contacted by murderers,” said Special Public Prosecutors Sunil Gonsalves and S K Sadawarte.
The NIA had called Sharma for questioning twice before. “We suspected his role but could not arrest him till we had concrete evidence. The arrest of the two accused last week has given us that evidence,” the Special Public Prosecutors said.
Sharma was picked up from Lonavla. The NIA also raided his house in Andheri on Thursday, and claimed to have recovered arms and ammunition, including a revolver with an expired licence.
Denying his involvement, Sharma told the court on Thursday that the then Police Commissioner had given him the revolver in 1997, but he had forgotten to renew its licence.
He said of the four men who are alleged to have been with Hiran in the vehicle, he only knew Shelar, as he was his “informer for 12 years”. “He has photographs with me on his Facebook page because I run a foundation and I am a (Shiv) Sena member. People approach me for help. A photo with me gets them more ‘likes’ on social media,” he told the court in Marathi. He blamed his arrest on an alleged factional feud within the Mumbai Police.
Special Judge Prashant Sitre asked the NIA why Sharma had been arrested after so many months. The NIA said police personnel were more difficult to “crack” and needed to be interrogated in a sustained manner.
Sharma, who was known as an “encounter specialist, opted for voluntary retirement in 2019. He unsuccessfully contested the Assembly elections from Nalasopara on a Shiv Sena ticket that year.
In 2008, Sharma was dismissed from service for alleged links with the underworld, but was reinstated in 2017. In 2010, he was arrested for an alleged fake encounter in 2006. He was acquitted in July 2013.
An SUV with explosives was found abandoned near industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s residence, ‘Antilia’, in Mumbai on February 25 this year. Thane-based businessman Mansukh Hiran, who had claimed that he was in possession of the vehicle, was found dead in a Mumbra creek on March 5.