Sources in the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is probing the Antilia bomb scare case, have said that arrested police officer Sachin Vaze had a sinister plan. He may have planned to eliminate two men to pin the blame for planting gelatin sticks in the SUV on them.
The investigation is now looking into an “encounter angle” after a passport was found in the house of Sachin Vaze, which has become a crucial piece in the Antilia terror puzzle.
Sources in NIA have said Sachin Vaze intended to eliminate the holder of that passport along with another man and subsequently implicate them for the crime of planting the SUV containing gelatin sticks outside Mukesh Ambani’s house.
The Antilia case had sent shockwaves across Maharashtra, eventually leading to a massive political drama surrounding the Uddhav Thackeray government.
The SUV was found on 25 February outside Mukesh Ambani’s house. The “original” plan, the two men (who have not been identified by NIA) were to be gunned down the same day, and Sachin Vaze would have claimed to have “solved” the case. The passport was found during a raid at Sachin Vaze’s house on 17 March.
The two men were to drive a Maruti Eeco car, stolen from Aurangabad, and park it outside Antilia with an IED inside. The NIA retrieved the vehicle’s number plate from River Mithi.
As luck ran out for Sachin Vaze, the plan did not fructify. Instead, he went for Plan B to use the SUV that was being used by Mansukh Hiren, the trader who was later found murdered.
The elimination of Mansukh Hiren was what Sachin Vaze had planned to crack before the ATS team. Though Vaze was an encounter expert, the entire plot was “poorly planned” said an officer privy to the probe.
Sachin Vaze had changed the number plates and even scratched the chassis number of the Scorpio. However, a sticker of an insurance company on the vehicle helped the ATS track it down to Hiren, which derailed the plan, the officer said.
The encounter was planned so that they would be hailed as heroes who solved the bomb scare case. Sources have said the accused may have been planning to use the case to make profit.
However, the hunt is on for the suspect who ultimately strangulated Mansukh Hiren. The cause of his death was asphyxia. Sachin Vaze has named some seniors as those he kept in the loop, but NIA is yet to corroborate evidence to back up the claims made by Vaze.
Sources have said that former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh, when questioned, had denied any knowledge of the wrongdoing by Sachin Vaze. There was a spate of denials, said the officer. However, the other big missing piece in the puzzle is a missing cell phone.
The phone could be a treasure trove of information. As per records, a day before the arrest, Sachin Vaze was using a mobile phone which was never found. Though several recoveries were made, the destruction of DVRs and CCTV footage at the commissioner’s office remains a challenge.
The NIA has made four arrests in the case, including that of Sachin Vaze, suspended constable Vinayak Shinde, cricket bookie Naresh Gaur and Vaze’s colleague Riyaz Kazi.
A senior officer said no clean chit has been given to anyone. “We are not in the business of giving a clean chit. We are here to investigate and get to the bottom of the conspiracy,” he said.