NEW DELHI, Apr 7: The controversy over the revocation of his suspension and reinstatement in the Mumbai police force of the arrested assistant police inspector Sachin Vaze has thickened with the present Mumbai police commissioner Hemant Nagrale holding his predecessor Param Bir Singh responsible for the decision.
In retaliation, the suspended police officer Sachin Vaze in an explosive letter to the National Investigating Agency (NIA) accused the former home minister Anil Deshmukh as well as the transport minister Anil Parab, who belonged to the Shiv Sena, of running the extortion racket to collect illegal money.
Singh, who has created a storm in the Maharashtra politics by raising an accusing finger against Deshmukh, had earlier blamed his former political boss for the decision while the Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, considered to be the main architect of the three-party Maha Vikas Aghadi government in the state, had agreed with Deshmukh that it was Singh’s decision to reinstate Vaze in the Mumbai police revoking his 16 years suspension.
Even while Nagrale blamed Singh, Vaze being held by the NIA in connection with the Mukesh Ambani bomb scale case, is learnt to have come to Singh’s aid supporting his claim of Deshmukh running an extortion racket.
From captivity, Vaze is believed to have written a letter to the NIA chief claiming that Deshmukh and Parab had asked to him to raise about Rs 100 crores a month by extorting money from restaurants, bars, government and municipal corporation contractors and others. In his hand-written letter, Vaze claimed that he had reported the matter to Singh and the then Mumbai police commissioner directed him “not to do such illegal acts from anyone and for anyone.”
Allegations, however, are flowing thick and fast from all sides with both the reports claimed to be concocted. Nagrale was asked to prepare the report by the home ministry before Deshmukh quit the office on Monday after Bombay High Court ordered CBI probe against the home minister on Singh’s charges and it was alleged that he was asked to submit the report blaming Singh for all the ills. As against this, Vaze was allegedly compelled by the central agencies to write the letter in support of Singh to strengthen CBI and the NIA’s cases which would cause huge embarrassment for the Shiv Sena-led MVA government.
According to Nagrale’s report, Vaze was posted in the crime intelligence unit (CIU) in June last year on the insistence of Singh despite opposition from a top crime branch officer. Vaze on reinstatement was reporting directly to Singh ignoring his intelligence wing chief, the report claimed.
According to the Mumbai police chief’s report, Vaze bypassed protocol and hierarchy to directly report to his predecessor who practically took all critical decisions relating to arrests, raids, remand applications and the police stand on anticipatory bail in cases handled by Vaze’s team.
“Vaze used to accompany Param Bir Singh during the briefing to the minister, home, on critical cases including TRP scam, Antilia explosive scare, Dilip Chhabria’s arrest. Vaze never obeyed the hierarchy of ranks to report over the cases under investigation,” the document said.
Officials said the police commissioner was told to send the report to the home department after Vaze’s arrest. Vaze was arrested by the NIA on March 13 for his alleged role in planting a vehicle with 20 loose gelatin sticks near industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s residence, Antilia. He is also the prime suspect in the murder of Thane businessman Mansukh Hiran, who is linked to the vehicle found near Antilia. This case is also being investigated by the NIA. Singh was summoned by the NIA on Wednesday for questioning in both the cases.
The police commissioner’s report, which is seen to link Singh to the controversial police officer Vaze, immediately prompted calls to put the former city police chief’s role under scrutiny.
Maharashtra Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant said this was something they had been demanding for days, because of r Singh’s “close proximity” with arrested API Vaze. “It has now been established that Singh is as responsible as Vaze in these two cases,” the Congress leader said.
Singh was removed as police commissioner on March 17 and shifted as commandant general of home guards after which he dropped a letter to the chief minister Uddhav Thackeray leveling extortion allegation against Deshmukh.
According to Nagrale, “The decision about the reinstatement of Vaze was taken in a suspension review committee meeting on June 5, 2020, chaired by Singh, joint police commissioner (administration) and other two senior officers. Vaze was reinstated on June 9 and was given posting in the all-important Crime Intelligence Unit (CIU) of the Mumbai police after initial appointment in the armed unit,” the report said, pointing that the then joint commissioner (Crime) had strongly opposed Vaze’s posting in the CIU.
It said Param Bir Singh ensured that Vaze headed the CIU though he, unlike other police officers who led the crucial unit in the past, was not an inspector-rank officer.
Vaze, on the other hand in an explosive letter accusing Deshmukh and Parab claimed that he was initially asked to extort money to pay to Deshmukh to convince Sharad Pawar for permission to draft him in the CIU. In his letter he said he was told by Deshmukh that Pawar was against his reinstatement in the Mumbai police in 2020 and wanted the decision to be reversed. At this Vaze was allegedly told by Deshmukh that if he could arrange to pay him Rs two crores he would convince Pawar to allow Vaze back in the force.
“The home minister told me that he will convince Pawar saheb and for that purpose, he asked me to pay Rs 2,00,00,000. I had expressed my inability to pay such an amount. On this the home minister asked me to pay it in a later course,” Vaze wrote.
Vaze has claimed that Anil Deshmukh had called him to the Sahyadri Guest House in October 2020 and asked him to collect money from 1,650 bars and restaurants in Mumbai. “I refused saying it was not within the scope of my capability,” Vaze claimed.
According to Vaze, Deshmukh made the same demand again in January 2021 when the two met at Deshmukh’s official bungalow. Vaze has claimed the minister’s PA Kundan was also present at the meeting as the home minister asked the Mumbai Police officer to collect Rs 3-3.5 lakh from each of the 1,650 bars and restaurants in Mumbai.
Sachin Vaze has also claimed that Maharashtra Transport Minister and Shiv Sena leader Anil Parab had asked him to extort money for him.
The suspended police officer has alleged that Anil Parab met him in July-August 2020 and asked him to extract Rs 50 crore from the Saifee Burhani Upliftment Trust (SBUT), which was facing an inquiry. “In July-August 2020, I was called by Minister Anil Parab at his official bungalow…At the meeting, Parab asked me to look into the complaint under preliminary inquiry and bring the trustees of the SBUT to him for negotiations about the inquiry. He also insisted to initiate primary talks to get Rs 50 crores from SBUT in order to close the said enquiry. I had expressed my inability to do any such thing as I do not know anybody from SBUT and also I did not have any control over the inquiry,” Vaze told the NIA.
In the letter to the NIA, Vaze has claimed that Anil Parab also called him once again in January, 2021, and asked him to look into an inquiry against some contractors listed in the BMC and collect Rs 2 crore each from them.
“He told me to collect at least Rs 2 crores from 50 such contractors. An inquiry was on in this matter based on an anonymous complaint. The Crime Intelligence Unit inquiry against the contractors had not yielded any result,” Vaze wrote.
Vaze has also claimed that he had told then Mumbai Police Commissioner Singh about the extortion demands made by Anil Deshmukh and Anil Parab. Singh reportedly told him to not act on the demands.
“…I met the Police Commissioner (Param Bir Singh) and told him that I expressed my apprehension about this…I told him that I would be embroiled in a false controversy in the near future. The CP encouraged me and categorically instructed me not to involve myself in any such illegal collection of money from anyone and for anyone.”
Meanwhile, a Mumbai court on Wednesday extended the NIA custody of Vaze till April 9. The court also allowed the CBI to question Vaze in connection with its preliminary enquiry into the allegations of corruption levelled by Singh against Deshmukh.