Mumbai: Param Bir Singh was removed as Mumbai Police chief on Wednesday and replaced by Hemant Nagrale in the middle of sensational near-daily revelations on a police officer arrested in a case linked to the Mukesh Ambani security scare. Param Bir Singh, moved to Home Guard, left his office shortly after the announcement by Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh.
This is the biggest fallout so far of a snowballing investigation against Mumbai police officer Sachin Waze, who was arrested last week by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in connection with a car with explosives found near the home of Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man.
The investigation has become a huge embarrassment for the Maharashtra government, with the opposition BJP accusing Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray of shielding Sachin Waze, a controversial cop who was once a member of his Shiv Sena.
The case involves a Scorpio SUV carrying gelatin sticks found abandoned on Mumbai’s Carmichael Road, near Mukesh Ambani’s 27-storey home Antilia, on February 25. It carried a threat letter to Mukesh and Nita Ambani. Sachin Waze was the first investigating officer in the case but the NIA suspects he played a more sinister role.
The NIA, which took over the investigation from the Mumbai police, alleges that the number plate of the abandoned vehicle was found in a car that Sachin Waze was using.
Today, the top investigating agency said a person seen in security footage lurking near the Ambani home the same night was Waze, after recovering some clothes from the Mercedes car he was using.
The NIA also claims the fingerprints on the Scorpio match Waze’s and that he was travelling in an Innova tailing the Scorpio car.
“In the CCTV footage, Sachin Waze could be seen with his head covered with a large handkerchief so that no one could identify him. He was wearing an oversized kurta-pajama, and not PPE coverall, in an attempt to mask his body language and face,” the NIA said, adding that Waze had discarded a cellphone and deleted data from his laptop.
The abandoned SUV was traced to one Mansukh Hiran, an auto parts dealer who had reported it stolen on February 17. Waze’s role came under scrutiny after Hiran was found dead in a creek near Mumbai on March 5. His wife alleged that Waze had borrowed the same vehicle for four months and had returned it on February 5. She also accused the cop of a role in her husband’s death.
The NIA said Waze allegedly seized CCTV footage at his own apartment complex and removed it.
Waze’s motive in all this is still not clear and how he could leave such a trail of evidence is unexplained.
At a press conference this evening, the BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis, former Chief Minister, targeted the state government, demanding to know who Waze’s “handler” was. “Who was operating Sachin Waze? Some people sitting in the government? Who will hold them responsible,” he questioned.
The BJP’s allegations are seen to have caused a strain between Maharashtra’s ruling allies Shiv Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
After a meeting at the Chief Minister’s home yesterday, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s Deputy Ajit Pawar of the NCP said the coalition was united and responded cautiously to speculation about Param Bir Singh being moved out. “Until there is proof of anyone’s guilt, they will continue working,” Pawar had said.