THE Mumbai Police on Tuesday arrested hotelier and alleged cricket bookie Vishal Karia in connection with the Kamala Mills fire after reportedly finding an Audi car belonging to wanted accused Abhijeet Mankar, the co-owner of 1Above, at his residence. Karia was arrested by the N M Joshi Marg police under Section 216 of the Indian Penal Code (harbouring offender who has escaped from custody or whose apprehension has been ordered).
“Karia was quizzed on the car and why was it found at his place. But he has failed to give any satisfactory explanation,” said a senior officer.
Crime branch officers investigating the Kamla Mills fire fear that the three owners of the pub, 1Above, Jigar Sanghvi, Kripesh Sanghvi and Abhijit Mankar, may have fled to Dubai. An investigating officer said the trio could have escaped via Nepal and are suspected to be hiding in their father Mansukh Sanghvi’s residence in Dubai. One Sanghvi brother named Ankit also stays in Dubai, said an officer.
Investigators believe that Mansukh has been hiding in Dubai since 2015 when he was booked in a hawala case in Surat by the Enforcement Directorate.
According to investigators, Jigar and Kripesh’s uncle, Mahendra Sanghvi, booked for shielding the Sanghvi brothers, was trying to coax the duo to surrender. “But after they consulted an advocate, they changed their mind following which the duo fled, along with their friend Mankar,” said an officer.
On Tuesday, Karia was caught from his Juhu residence. An officer said: “We got a tip-off that on January 3, Mankar’s Audi was seen being driven in Juhu. A team was instantly dispatched and the car was seized. Karia was brought to the police station for interrogation, following which the car was also seized.”
Karia has reportedly told the police that Mankar’s car was handed over to him by Kripesh Sanghvi at 3.30 am on December 29, hours after the fire broke out.
Fourteen people, including 11 women and one staff member of 1Above, died in the fire inside the Kamala Mills Compound on December 29. The police have booked the owners of two resto-pubs — 1 Above and Mojo’s Bistro — in the case. While Mojo’s Bistro owner, Yug Pathak, son of retired IPS officer K K Pathak, has been arrested, co-owner Yug Tulli was refused interim relief from arrest by a Mumbai court. All three owners of 1 Above, Abhijeet Mankar, Kripesh and Jigar Sanghvi, are still at large. Earlier, the police had arrested two managers of 1Above — Kevin Bawa and Libson Lopez — who are now in judicial custody.
Last week, a reward of Rs 1 lakh had been announced for anyone with information about Mankar, Kripesh and Jigar Sanghvi. On Monday, a police team was dispatched to Kolkata where Tulli is believed to be in.