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Was Sachin Vaze planning fake encounters to claim Antilia case ‘solved’? NIA finds new leads

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Suspended Mumbai police officer Sachin Vaze

Antilia bomb case: The NIA has stumbled upon a new piece of evidence which suggests that suspended Mumbai cop Sachin Vaze was planning an encounter to claim that he had cracked the Antilia bomb scare case. An explosive-laden Scorpio was found near industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s house and Vaze, then head of the criminal intelligence unit, was made the investigating officer by then Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh. But his plan went haywire as the central agency stepped in to probe the terror angle in the case.

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During a search operation, the NIA had recovered a passport from Vaze’s house on March 17. The Indian Express reports that now the central investigating agency is looking at various possibilities, and of them is that Vaze intended to eliminate the passport holder along with another man. The passport holder and the other person had a criminal background and they were known to Vaze. According to the report, the agency is suspecting that Vaze’s plan was to gun down the two men the same day and claim to have “solved” the case.

Based on evidence collected so far, the NIA suspects that the original plan was to get the two men to drive a Maruti Eeco, which had been stolen from Aurangabad, and park it outside Antilia with an IED (Improvised Explosive Device). The NIA found the vehicle’s number plate from Mithi river, sources told IE. But for various reasons, Sachin Vaze could not devote enough time to coordinate this plan. Vaze was heading many other important investigations as head of the CIU.

When this plan couldn’t be executed, Vaze and the other accused then decided to use the Scorpio that was being used by Mansukh Hiren. However, the report says, plan to allegedly “eliminate” the two men in a fake encounter could not be executed as Vaze lost control of the investigation within hours of the vehicle being found outside Antilia as the Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) took over the case.

An officer familiar with the probe told IE that the plan went haywire on day one itself after the ATS tracked a sticker on the SUV and found that it belonged to Hiren. The officer said that they (accused) had changed number plates and even scratched the chassis number of the Scorpio. However, through a sticker of an insurance company on the vehicle, the ATS tracked it down to Hiren, which derailed their plan, the officer told IE.

“So far, it appears that they wanted to encounter the two persons and show that they had averted the threat. Apart from being hailed as heroes, they may have been planning to use it for some profit,” the officer was quoted as saying by IE. After their initial plan did not work out, the investigators believe that Vaze and the co-accused began destroying evidence that could link them to the incident, including CCTV footage.

The agency believes that Vaze feared that Hiren may spill the beans during investigation and that is why he personally took over his interrogation. But when Vaze realised the case could be transferred, , the report says, he allegedly decided with his other accomplices to eliminate Hiren. To protect himself, Vaze also suggested Hiren write a letter stating he was under mental pressure. “The plan was to make it look like a suicide,” the officer told IE.

Hiren was found dead in a creek near Thane on March 5, just a week after his vehicle was found parked near Antilia.

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