NIA: Sachin Waze drove vehicle seen escorting SUV outside Ambani home

The NIA probe in the case has identified Sachin Waze as the person seen on CCTV footage wearing a large kurta and covering his face, a few hours after the Scorpio SUV was parked outside the Ambani residence that day.

It prima facie appears that Sachin Waze drove the white vehicle that escorted the SUV with explosives near the residence of Mukesh Ambani on February 25, according to the remand report of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) that was submitted in court Sunday to obtain custody of the Assistant Police Inspector for 12 days in the bomb scare case.

The NIA probe in the case, meanwhile, has identified Waze as the person seen on CCTV footage wearing a large kurta and covering his face, a few hours after the Scorpio SUV was parked outside the Ambani residence that day, sources said.

NIA IG Anil Shukla said investigators have also found the fake number plate used for the Scorpio from a black Mercedes car used by Waze. The Mercedes was recovered Tuesday from a parking lot in South Mumbai with clothes, Rs 5 lakh in cash, a currency counting machine and kerosene inside, Shukla said.

The NIA probe has found that Waze met Thane-based auto decor shop owner Mansukh Hiran in South Mumbai on February 17, eight days before the SUV being used by Hiran was found outside Ambani’s home, a senior officer told The Indian Express.

Before his body was recovered from a creek on March 5, Hiran had told police that the Scorpio had been stolen on February 17. The NIA, however, suspects that Hiran may have allegedly handed over the keys of the Scorpio to Waze during this meeting near Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus train station, a short distance from Mumbai’s police headquarters.

In its remand application filed before the special court, the NIA has said that Waze was involved in planting the SUV outside Ambani’s residence. The agency’s investigators are tracking CCTV footage to gather more evidence on the alleged meeting between Waze and Hiran.

On February 17, Hiran had filed a complaint at the Vikhroli police station claiming that the Scorpio was stolen after he had parked it on the roadside following a breakdown earlier that day. But the NIA, sources said, did not find any scratches near the car’s keyhole indicating it had not been broken into.

According to the senior officer, the NIA suspects that the SUV’s key was later handed over by Waze to someone who drove it from Vikhroli to his housing society in Thane where it was parked for a few days before being driven to the Ambani residence.

On Tuesday, The Indian Express reported that Waze’s team at Mumbai Police’s Crime Intelligence Unit had taken all CCTV footage from the housing society on February 27, two days after the bomb scare incident.

In its remand report, the NIA has claimed a link between Hiran’s Vikhroli complaint, his death and the bomb scare case. While the first two cases are being investigated by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad, the NIA has taken over the third case.

In its remand plea, the NIA said the identities of Waze’s co-conspirators need to be established through sustained questioning. It also said that Waze is a police officer with “large amounts of wherewithal and influence at his disposition”, and his custody is required to ensure a free and fair probe.

According to the NIA plea, Waze’s “past criminal antecedents” need to be brought on record, too, to track any possible links. Apart from the custodial death case of software engineer Khwaja Yunus, Waze was also booked in an extortion case in 2017.

In the bomb scare case, Waze has been booked under IPC sections 286 (negligent conduct with respect to explosive substances), 465 (forgery), 473 (counterfeiting seals, plate…), 506 (2) (criminal intimidation) and 120B (criminal conspiracy), and other sections of the Explosive Substances Act.

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