(EDS: Updating with ATS official's quote) Mumbai, Mar 21 (PTI) In a 'major breakthrough', the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) has arrested a policeman and a bookie in connection with the alleged murder of businessman Mansukh Hiran, an official said on Sunday, adding Mumbai police officer Sachin Waze had played a key role in the crime and emerged as the prime accused.
The accused duo, identified as policeman Vinayak Shinde and bookie Naresh Gaur, were arrested on Saturday late night, he said.
Earlier in the day, the official had given the name of the bookie as Naresh Dhare, but later said it was Naresh Gaur.
Shinde is a convict in the 2006 Lakhan Bhaiya fake encounter case and he came out from jail on furlough last year, he said, adding that Shinde had been in touch with Waze since then.
The official told PTI that prima facie it was Shinde who had called Hiran from suburban Kandivali by identifying himself as 'Tawde saheb' on March 4, a day before the Thane- based businessman's body was found in a creek in Mumbra.
On March 4 night, Hiran left his residence in Thane after telling his wife Vimla that he was called by 'Tawde saheb' at Kandivali for questioning.
At around 11 pm on that day, when Vimla and her sons tried calling Hiran, they found that his phone was switched off, as per the investigation.
Hiran had earlier claimed that the SUV, which was found near the south Mumbai residence of industrialist Mukesh Ambani on February 25, was stolen from his possession.
Waze is currently in the custody of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) which is probing the recovery of the vehicle containing gelatin sticks and a threat letter which was found parked near Ambani's multi-storey residence 'Antilia'.
The Union Home Ministry on Saturday handed over the Hiran murder case to the NIA.
'Sachin Waze is a prime accused in the Hiran murder case. He had played a key role. During the probe, the ATS found that Gaur had provided five SIM cards to API Waze and Shinde for the crime. Shinde used to help Waze in his illegal activities,' the official said.
He said the ATS was investigating if more people were involved in the case and what role they had played.
'The ATS is probing who was the main conspirator (in Hiran murder case),' he added.
'Both the accused were on Saturday called to the ATS headquarters for questioning in connection with the case and later placed under arrest,' he added.
'The state ATS has so far interrogated several people, including police officials and the family members of the deceased. The arrest of these two persons is a major breakthrough in the case,' the official said.
The ATS had earlier registered a case under Indian Penal Code sections 302 (murder), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence or giving false information to screen offender), 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 34 (common intention) against unidentified persons in connection with Hiran's death.
Meanwhile, the BJP said that Waze could be one of pawns in the 'entire game'.
'Sachin Waze, Param Bir Singh (former Mumbai police commissioner) and (state Home Minister) Anil Deshmukh perhaps are only pawns in the entire game. Real power (s) behind them need to be investigated along with their motives.
Once Waze starts speaking in the NIA interrogation, more skeletons will tumble out from the government's closet,' Maharashtra BJP president Chandrakant Patil said in a statement on Sunday.
Earlier in the day, MNS chief Raj Thackeray sought the Centre's intervention in unearthing the truth behind the explosives-laden car that was found near Ambani's residence.
Addressing a press conference, Thackeray alleged that the Maharashtra government failed to shed light on several basic points in the case.
'The explosives case doesn't revolve only around Param Bir Singh and Sachin Waze. Police placing the explosives or being asked to do so is not a small thing,' he said.
Param Bir Singh, who was under flak over handling of the bomb scare episode, was transferred from the post of Mumbai police commissioner on Wednesday. On Saturday, he wrote a letter to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray alleging that Home Minister Anil Deshmukh wanted police officers to collect Rs 100 crore per month from bars and hotels.
Deshmukh had denied the allegations.
The Centre should help in finding out the truth in the case. The basic issue of who placed the explosives-laden vehicle and on whose instructions it was done needs to be found out, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief said.
'The basic issue should not be forgotten, otherwise this case will go the same way as actor Sushant Singh Rajput's (death) case,' he said.
Thackeray said it seems very unlikely that the vehicle with explosives was parked near Ambani's house by Waze without being asked to do so.
Thackeray asked why there is no clarity yet from the state government as to why Param Bir Singh was shunted out.
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