Monday, April 30, 2007

Frame-up theory gains ground

CASE FILE: Rajendra Chaturvedi was arrested for allegedly plotting to kill rival Rashmikant Shah




Builder Chaturvedi’s Case Has Police Force Divided; CID To Take Over Probe


S Ahmed Ali & Mateen Hafeez I TNN


Mumbai: The probe into the rivalry between two city builders, which resulted in one of them landing behind bars, is revealing conflicting stories. The case will be handed over to the state CID once the police receives an order from the home department, said an officer.

Questions are being raised about the arrest of developer Rajendra Chaturvedi, who was accused of hiring four gangsters to bump off his rival. The police claimed Chaturvedi had paid Rs 12.5 lakh to four gangsters for killing rival builder Rashmikant Shah of the Vijay group. The police had said Shah and Chaturvedi were at loggerheads over the redevelopment rights to a plot worth Rs 500 crore in Kala
chowkie. However, some within the force feel the case is a frame-up.

A confidential report submitted by the investigating officer, assistant commissioner of police (Juhu Division) S
G Nimgaonkar, to senior inspector of Juhu police, Pradeep Shinde, had even said, “Are you satisfied the accused Wadkar is not planted by Shah? Collect the evidence of each accused and find out if they were arrested earlier under the Organised Crime Act...Record the statement of Shah.’’ But the senior inspector is yet to record Shah’s statement, it is learnt. When TOI called him, Shinde wanted to be called on another number, but didn’t take the call.

Chaturvedi told TOI he had repeatedly stressed his innocence during questioning. He said he had told the assistant commissioner of police (Bandra division), Subhash Deshmukh that he never paid anyone this amount. “The ACP checked my bank statement and
found there was no withdrawal of this money from my personal account or company account. In fact, one of the four gangsters, Vijay Wadkar, had even told the same ACP that this money was paid by Shah,’’ said Chaturvedi.

Police officials are reluctant to comment. Deputy commissioner of police, Vinay Chaube said, “I don’t have details with me. You come to my office, I will tell you everything in detail.’’ Additional Commissioner of Police (west region) Bipin Bihari, who is heading the investigation, is on leave and will return only in the first week of May. It is learnt that police chief D N Jadhav had summoned two investigating officers for a briefing following media reports.
ahmed.ali@timesgroup.com
mateen.hafeez@timesgroup.com



The Times of India, April 30, 2007

One more held for selling fake degrees to 7/11 suspects

FINDING THE LINK

Mateen Hafeez I TNN


Mumbai: The Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) on Friday arrested a Thane man for allegedly selling fake degree certificates in a scam that was earlier uncovered during investigations into the deadly 7/11 serial blasts.

The ATS arrested Sandeep Kumar Mengi, 32, who claimed to be a director of the Bhartiya Shiksha Parishad (BSP), Lucknow. Mengi’s name cropped up in investigations following the arrest of Vijay Agrawal, 54, another director of the BSP, on March 1 this year.

The suspects were allegedly involved in selling fake certificates to two brothers, Muzammil Shaikh and Raheel Shaikh, who are accused in the case involving the blasts, which took 187 lives on July 11, 2006. While Muzammil was arrested on July 27 last year, Raheel is absconding and is believed to be in London.

Using the fake degrees, Muzammil got a job as a computer programmer with a multinational software company in Bangalore and Raheel became a computer engineer with M/s Zensar Technologies in Pune in 2003. Raheel later went to the UK.

“Mengi used to issue fake
degree certificates to students and we have arrested his accomplice earlier in this case. The police are probing the matter and hoping to get more information,’’ said Param Bir Singh, additional commissioner of police, ATS.

The ATS is also gathering details about a bank account into which the BSP office-bearers allegedly deposited money from the sales of degrees. The ATS has alerted several other agencies and informed the Lucknow police about the case. “A record of bank accounts and financial transactions would help us know about the modus operandi and the people involved,’’ said an officer.

Raheel, the police suspect, may have got a BSc certificate from the BSP for Rs 40,000. The two brothers were issued certificates in 1996-97. Investiga
tors also said that the BSP was not a central, state or deemed university and was not empowered to give any degrees. The BSP is not recognised by the University Grants Commission (UGC). The ATS has also found that Agrawal, who claims to be a PhD, has only completed Std IX.

The police have questioned Mengi about whether the other 7/11 blasts accused were issued fake certificates too.

During a raid at Mengi’s residence in Thane, the ATS seized the BSP register of student enrollment from 1997 to 2006, BSP rubber stamps, students’ provisional certificates, identity cards, the institute’s details and a mark-list of students issued by Madhya Pradesh’s Bhoj university.

The police alleged that the BSP men were running an organised fake certificate scam in several states. “They would charge Rs 40,000 for a bachelor’s degree and then enrol students in the BSP and issue first-year and second-year certificates. Later, they would enrol these students with Bhoj university in the third year,’’ an officer alleged.

The police are now looking for a man who is said to be an organiser of the Sai college of distance education in Thane.
mateen.hafeez@timesgroup.com



The Times of India, April 30,2007

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Haseena cheating case takes a new twist

Haseena



Mateen Hafeez I TNN


Mumbai: The cheating case involving underworld don D awo o d I b r a h i m ’s younger sister H a s e e n a Parkar and seven others is getting murkier. Crime branch officers learnt that earlier this year Haseena had complained to the city police against Arshad Shaikh—an accused in the cheating case — for selling a flat in Bandra that was already in someone’s possession for Rs 41 lakh.

The crime branch on April 24 registered a case of cheating and forgery against eight persons—Haseena, Arshad Shaikh, Chandresh Shah, Shameem, Saleem, Maqsood, Krishnamilan alias Baba
Shukla and his nephew Sandeep Shukla. The Shuklas were arrested on Wednesday.

Sources said in January, Haseena approached the Bandra police and stated that the Bandra-based real estate developer Shaikh of A M Developers had duped her by selling an apartment he had already sold to another buyer. The 500 sq ft apartment was located on the second floor of the fourstoreyed Newton Villa on Chappel Road, Bandra (west). The police advised Haseena to approach the civil court.

Shaikh was also accused of duping a housing finance firm by forging papers of buyers of eight flats in the building and obtaining home loans of Rs 2.3 crore in their names. A case was registered against him with the Economic Offences Wing (EOW). The EOW learnt that no fake names were used in the documents submitted to
the finance company. In fact, they were paid between Rs 2 to 5 lakh for cooperating.

On Friday afternoon, the crime branch sent teams to Bandra to trace Shaikh, but it returned empty-handed. “We are trying to understand the link in the two cases. In one case, Haseena complained that Shaikh duped her. In another, the complainant, Vinod Avlani, a real estate broker, said Shaikh was among the seven other accused present at Haseena’s apartment in Nagpada when they were given a demand draft of Rs 1 crore. The confusion will clear once we trace Shaikh and Haseena,’’ said an officer.

Though the Bandra case is a different one, the police are trying to find out if Haseena paid Rs 41 lakh to Shaikh. And if she did, they want to ascertain how and from where she got the money.
mateen.hafeez@timesgroup.com


The Times of India, April 28, 2007

Friday, April 27, 2007

Builder claims he was framed by cops

DEMANDING A PROBE: Chaturvedi was arrested on March 15 on the charge that he hired hitmen to kill a business rival



Mateen Hafeez & S Ahmed Ali I TNN


Mumbai: A day after he was released on bail, builder Rajendra Chaturvedi has accused two senior IPS officers and an encounter specialist of arresting him in a bogus case at the behest of a rival builder, Rashmikant Shah.

Chaturvedi was arrested on March 15 on the charge that he hired hitmen to kill Shah. Both Shah and Chaturvedi are in the fray to redevelop 45 housing societies at Kalachowkie in central Mumbai. The project is worth Rs 500 crore.

“One of the senior officers currently sits at the police headquarters opposite Crawford Market while the other is an additional commissioner of police,” said Chaturvedi, managing director of the Shreepati group who is known for having constructed the country’s tallest building—Shreepati Arcade at Nana Chowk. “However, the entire operation against me was planned by this so-called encounter specialist at the behest of Shah.’’ Chaturvedi further alleged that a large amount of money had changed hands to frame him.

The two IPS officers and the encounter specialist along with Shah, wanted him to get out of the Kalachowkie project, Chaturvedi alleged.

When TOI contacted Rashmikant Shah on his mobile, a man claiming to be his associate, Vijay Mehta, said, “We don’t want to comment on Chaturvedi’s wild allegations. We are the victims in the case. Let the law take its own course. If Chaturvedi is innocent, why is he opposing the narco test? The test will clear all the doubts.’’ When asked why Shah had abused senior inspector of Juhu police station Pradeep Shinde, he said, “Shah has never been to Juhu police station.’’

Chaturvedi claimed that soon after his arrest, Shinde had briefed home minister R R Patil and told him it was a “false’’ case. “I was called to the Juhu police station on March 7 and questioned by senior inspector Pradeep
Shinde, DCP Vinay Chaube and even additional commissioner of police Bipin Bihari,’’ he said.

According to Chaturvedi, he saw ‘someone’ outside Shinde’s office. “The man shouted at Shinde as to why I had not been arrested despite a huge amount of money being paid. He threatened Shinde saying he would complain to senior officers. Later, I learnt that the man who abused Shinde was Shah. I lodged a non-cognisable (NC) complaint with the Gamdevi police saying Shah had threat
ened me,’’ he said.

About his arrest, Chaturvedi said, “On March 15, I was taken to Juhu police station where Shinde told me he had instructions from his superiors to arrest me. I learnt that a meeting attended by three officers was conducted at the additional commissioner’s office in Bandra and the decision to arrest me was taken hours before this drama.’’ He demanded that the IPS officers be investigated in connection with the framing.

Reacting to Chaturvedi’s charge, he said, “We will look into the allegations made by Chaturvedi’’.
mateen.hafeez@timesgroup.com



The Times of India, April 27, 2007

Fortnight on, CID yet to get Chaturvedi case

BUILDER RIVALRY


S Ahmed Ali & Mateen Hafeez I TNN


Mumbai: Despite an assurance by home minister R R Patil in the Assembly a fortnight ago regarding the transfer of the Rajendra Chaturvedi case from the city police to the state CID, the case is yet to be transferred. Sources said some senior IPS officers in the Mumbai police are delaying handing over of the case as they are wary of the CID probing it.

Police commissioner D N Jadhav said, “We are yet to receive an order from the state government to transfer the case from the city police to the state CID.’’

Police sources have also expressed surprise at the fact that ACPs were asked to investigate the Chaturvedi case.
ACPs are usually assigned to investigate only those cases where the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act has been applied which is not the case here.

There are other discrepancies seen in the handling of the case. The police booked Chaturvedi for abetment and conspiracy to kill (IPC sections 302 and 115) instead of Section 307, which is attempt to murder. Sections 302 and 115 are applied only when a person attempts to kill someone and the victim is injured. In Chaturvedi’s case, there was no attempt on anyone’s life. The police picked up Chaturvedi on the alleged confession of Vijay Wadkar, one of the four hitmen the police claim they arrested. The police dropped these sections af
ter the Bombay high court came down heavily on the Juhu police for this.

The police had also claimed that the four hitmen were carrying Rs 12.5 lakh in cash that Chaturvedi had allegedly paid them when they were on their way to bump off builder Rashmikant Shah. “Are professional hitmen so stupid as to carry cash when they are supposed to kill Shah?’’ asked a senior police officer. Two of the hitmen, Jaffar and Khan, are believed to be the frontmen of a controversial encounter specialist.

Sources also said that it was intriguing why senior inspector of Juhu police station Pradeep Shinde failed to take action against Shah after being abused and insulted by him in the officer’s cabin on March 7. Shinde has recorded the incident in the station diary.

The entire case has been a hot potato within the police force—over the last one-anda-half months, five officers assigned the case were withdrawn due to their reluctance to investigate it. One of them, ACP S Nimgaonkar (Juhu division) had even submitted a confidential report to additional commissioner Bipin Bihari highlighting 15 points that made Chaturvedi’s arrest untenable.

Soon after this report, Nimgaonkar was made to hand over the case to another ACP (D N Nagar division) Arun Awate, by Bihari. But Awate was not keen and requested police chief D N Jadhav to give it to someone else in the department. The case then landed up on the table of ACP Subhash Deshmukh (Bandra division).

ahmed.ali@timesgroup.com
mateen.hafeez@timesgroup.com


The Times of India, April 27, 2007

Monday, April 23, 2007

Two minors held in Airoli gangrape case

SMALL WITNESS? Chhotu, aged 12, was sent to Dongri remand home on Sunday


Mateen Hafeez | TNN


Mumbai: The Mumbai police have picked up two minors in the Airoli gangrape case and sent one of them to Arthur Road jail and the other to the children’s remand home at Dongri.

“Fifteen-year-old Prashant and 12-year-old Chhotu, both residents of Kanjur village in Kanjurmarg, were picked up on Saturday by the police. While Chhotu has been sent to the Dongri remand home, Prashant has been arrested for ‘abetting the crime’ and was sent to
judicial custody,’’ said deputy commissioner of police Niket Kaushik.

Although Prashant is also a minor, he was not sent to a remand home. Both the boys belong to fishermen’s families. They were picked up after an arrested accused, Chandrakant Bhandare alias Chandya (45), revealed that the two boys were present when the rape took place.

Chandya, a fisherman, was the first per
son to be arrested in connection with the rape which took place on the night of April 17. Chandya, a father of two, has been sent to judicial custody. Sources said the police have also detained Chandya’s friend, Raghavendra alias Raghu, who is suspected to be involved in the rape.

The police said the victim was sitting with her friend, Sandeep Choudhary, in an isolated area near the Mulund-Airoli flyover when four unidentified persons allegedly assaulted her friend and abducted her. She
was then dragged to a boat nearby and taken to the other side of the creek and raped. The accused had then fled, leaving her to find her way back.

The rape victim’s blood-soaked dupatta which had been found near the creek has been sent to the state forensic science lab for a DNA test.

Rape victim’s sandals, dupatta sent for tests
Mumbai: The Airoli gangrape victim’s blood-soaked dupatta along with her sandals, vaginal swabs and blood will be tested.

The clothes of Chandrakant Bhandare alias Chandya, a fisherman who was the first to be arrested in the rape case, have also been sent for forensic tests. Police have inspected the spot where the alleged rape took place and are believed to have found clinching evidence.

“Prashant, one of the two minors arrested on Saturday, was picked up from Bhandup railway station. We have to conduct an identification parade and therefore we have asked for their judicial custody. Once the 16-year-old victim regains her composure, we will conduct the identification parade and then take them into police custody,’’ said Kaushik.

According to Kaushik, Chhotu, another minor, was not directly involved in the kidnapping and rape. “We have sent Chhotu to a remand
home and asked for his statement to be recorded before a probation officer so that we get more information about this case,’’ added Kaushik. The police could use Chhotu as a witness during the trial although the police is tightlipped right now.

A case under sections 376 (rape), 363 (kidnap), 324 (grievous injury) and 34 (common participation in an act of crime) has been registered.



IN POLICE NET: One of the suspects in the Airoli gangrape case being taken to Bhoiwada court on Sunday

The Times of India, April 23, 2007

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Airline job racket busted

FLYING INTO TROUBLE


Mateen Hafeez I TNN


Mumbai: A gang of seven people who duped youths seeking jobs in airlines was busted by the Economic Offences Wing on Wednesday night.

The gang, which operated outside Sahar airport, issued fake appointment letters for the posts of airhostesses, traffic assistants and supervisors in various airlines including Jet Airways, Kingfisher and Air India.

Interestingly, the gang had been operating for the past one year right under the noses of the intelligence unit of the Special Branch, lookout cell of the crime branch and the Sahar airport police.

The accused were arrested from Hotel Nobel Enterprise near Sahar airport. “A 24-yearold woman who had come from Nagpur to get a job through these people suspect
ed that something was wrong and approached the EOW. Acting on her complaint, we busted this racket and arrested them,’’ said an officer.

The arrested included four identified as Rajesh Pohre, Amjad Shaikh, Nizamuddin Naseem and Sanjeev Jha.

“Fake rubber stamps of work manager, managing di
rector and recruiting authorities of Kingfisher, Air India, Jet Airways and several other airlines have been seized from them. The accused would charge between Rs 1.5 lakh and Rs 2.5 lakh to get the candidates recruited,’’ police sources said.

Around 70 photos, fake appointment letters of Airport Authority of India and a fake
identity card of Air India were seized during the search.

“All the accused are school dropouts. They did not have any permanent office and would choose their victims at functions, wedding halls, colleges and in rural areas,’’ a source said. The accused had appointed sub-agents in rural Maharashtra who would send aspiring candidates to get recruited in airlines and would charge them lakhs of rupees for the same.

“They had appointed middlemen on a commission basis. We are looking for the agents and sub-agents who would hunt for victims. Over 50 people are suspected of having been cheated by this gang,’’ the source added.

Some of the unsuspecting victims had even taken loans from friends and relatives to land the jobs.
mateen.hafeez@timesgroup.com

The Times of India, April 21, 2007

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Expert who could have nailed Pareira not called



HIT AND RUN


Mateen Hafeez | TNN


Mumbai: The police may have copped all the blame for Alistair Pareira getting off lightly in the Carter Road hit-and-run case, but it now transpires that the prosecution failed to summon a forensic expert who would have testified that Pareira was drunk when he mowed down seven people.

What’s more, the expert, who would have explained the implications of the chemical analysis (CA) done on the accused, was sitting in the courtroom when the judge sought an explanation on the forensic report. But, since the prosecutor had not lined him up to testify, the Khar police could not prove that Pareira was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the incident.

The prosecution’s failure resulted in Pareira’s acquittal for culpable homicide (under Section 304 (ii) of the Indian Penal Code) and earned him a lighter sentence for rash driving even though his actions had resulted in the deaths of seven persons.

Instead of the forensic expert, the prose
cutor called a regular doctor from Bhabha Hospital who had no clue about the permissible level of alcohol in a blood sample. Therefore, he was not able to explain to the judge that Pareira was in an inebriated state. TOI is in possession of the chemical analysis reports issued by the director of the state forensic science lab (FSL). One of the reports was on a sample of alcohol from a bottle of Bacardi rum found inside the Toyota Corolla which Pareira was driving.

The report had tested positive for ethyl alcohol (morpholine test). The report, signed by V A Mokal, assistant chemical analyser to the government of Maharashtra, states that the sample contained “42% vv of ethyl alcohol in water’’ and that it was “not a medicinal\antiseptic\toilet preparation, nor a flavouring material’’.

Similarly, a report on the urine samples prepared by B D Dhongade, assistant chemical analyser, FSL, says that it contained “0.056% (56 mg) w\v of ethyl alcohol’’.


Experts hit out at prosecutor in Alistair case

Mumbai: The blood report of Alistair Pareira, who got just a six months term despite mowing down seven persons on Carter Road on November 12, says, “0.112% (112 mg) w\v (double the permissible quantity) of ethyl alcohol’’ .

Rukmani Krishnamurthy, director, FSL, who agreed that the findings were accurate enough to prove that the driver was drunk, said it was inexplicable why the prosecutor had not summoned the man from her lab to testify in court. “When the chemical analysis (CA) report has been prepared by the forensic expert, how can a doctor be called to explain it? Our chemical analyser who prepared the CA report was
very much in court but not called in to give his account and explain the blood and urine report.’’

Criminal lawyer Satish Maneshinde explained that it’s elementary procedure to summon a forensic expert to explain the CA report. “It cannot be done by a doctor who does not know the facts of the report. A public prosecutor has to give an application in court to examine a forensic expert and if he does not, then as per CrPC provisions the court can also call experts to explain and examine the report. This step too was not taken,’’ he said.

Incidentally, Judge Ajit Mishra had come down heavily on the police for its “shoddy and casual’’ approach to the case while handing out the
verdict. He pointed out the flaws in the probe (see box) and then acquitted Pareira of culpable homicide and for causing grievous hurt while convicting him for rash driving on the basis of circumstantial evidence. Pareira was sentenced to six months in jail.

The investigating officer in the case, S Phool Sundar, sought to defend himself saying, “the police had mentioned the forensic expert among the witnesses to be summoned for a deposition, but the judge did not examine him’’. His claim is disputable considering that a decision to examine a potential witness is usually taken by the prosecutor and the investigating officer, not by the judge.

When asked why a forensic expert was not called to depose
in court, Bipin Bihari, additional commissioner of police (west region) who supervised the investigation, also refused to take responsibility and said he was unaware about what had happened. “I was not present in the court, so I don’t know what happened there,’’ Bihari said.

Curiously, the prosecutor, Anuradha Marelikar, examined only 18 of the 40 witnesses listed in the chargesheet. Along with the forensic expert, some others who had a vital role to play were not examined during the trial which concluded in five days. This includes the three cops from Khar who were the first to reach the spot within minutes of the accident and to nab Pareira and his friends.

HOW THE PROSECUTION MESSED UP

PHOTOGRAPHIC EVIDENCE:
Cops submitted 33 photographs of the accident site, but the man who took them, Pravin Mohite, told the court that the prints attached to the chargesheet did not match with the negatives he had. Also, records showed Mohite had been called to the site 45 minutes before the accident took place.

RTO OFFICER’S TESTIMONY: An RTO officer called in to look at the photographs said he was not carrying his spectacles and therefore could not identify them. He was never summoned again

FORENSIC EVIDENCE
: A chemical analysis report was presented to show that there was 0.112% vv of alcohol in Pareira’s blood and urine samples. But the prosecution failed to examine a forensic expert who could have shown that the alcohol level was above the permissible limit

MEDICAL CERTIFICATES:
Police failed to submit medical certificates to show Pareira’s driving had led to grievous injuries to eight persons. If it was proved the accident had caused grievous injuries, Pareira may have got two years


The Times of India, April 19, 2007

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Crime branch senses underworld hand in graft probe against its men



Mateen Hafeez I TNN


Mumbai: The crime branch and the anticorruption bureau (ACB)—two wings of the Mumbai police—are currently at odds over a probe into charges of corruption involving two officers.

The case relates to a real estate agent Chandresh Shah (50), who was arrested by the ACB for accepting Rs 1.5 lakh as bribe allegedly to get a couple of crime branch officers off a businessman’s back.

While the ACB has stepped up its probe by questioning the officers concerned, crime branch officials say the entire case is a frame-up aimed at diverting their energy and attention from important matters relating to the Dawood Ibrahim gang.

The interesting bit about the case is that the real estate agent, Shah, and the businessman, Krishnamilan Shukla, had teamed up in 2006 for a slum rehab housing project along with six others, including Dawood Ibrahim’s sister Haseena Parkar.

Shah, the realty agent who is in custody, was caught while taking money from Shukla. Shah then told the ACB that the money was to be paid to assistant po
lice inspector Rajendra Nikam and inspector Anil Mahabole of crime branch (unit-I) to go slow on a case of cheating against Shah, Shukla and the six others.

Since the arrest, the ACB has been questioning Nikam at its Worli office. It has also recorded statements of Nikam and Mahabole. But crime branch is crying foul, saying the case seemed to have been cooked up to delay progress on four cases involving members of D-company, including one connected to Dawood Ibrahim’s brother Iqbal Kaskar.

Mahabole and Nikam are closely connected with the investigation into the Dawood gang’s activities. In fact, Mahabole is in charge of the probe into the Sara-Sa
hara case and the circumstances behind the deportation of 10 persons allegedly connected to the D-gang from UAE.

“The judgment in the Sara-Sahara (a shopping complex allegedly built with mafia money) case is likely to come within a month. Kaskar is one of the accused. Last month, we had secured a conviction against Rubina Sayyed and three others in an MCOCA court. This charge against the crime branch guys could be a tactic to slow down our probe,’’ said one officer.


Another officer claimed that the crime branch was also on the verge of filing chargesheets in several cases in which 10 members of the Chhota Shakeel gang are involved, including his brother-inlaw Saleem Fruit and Anjum Fazlani who were deported from Dubai a few months ago. “Fazlani is the man who, on behalf of Chhota Shakeel, had several times spoken to actor Salman Khan to reduce his film fee for Chori Chori Chupke Chupke. Someone is clearly trying to mess around by delaying the trial in these cases,’’ the officer said. He said that the inquiry against the two officers for accepting a bribe could be an underworld ploy to entrap them in corruption cases.

mateen.hafeez@timesgroup.com


The Times of India, April 18, 2007

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Police will appoint lawyers to ‘bail’ them out in court



As Cops Go Into Damage-Control Mode In Alistair Case, Debate Rages Over Tougher Laws

Mateen Hafeez | TNN


Mumbai: Embarrassed by the public backlash for their handling of the Alistair Pareira case, the Mumbai police are now saying that they will soon appoint 27 legal advisors to ensure better coordination between the investigators and prosecutor in sensitive matters. Public prosecutors often complain that they are not given a clear briefing by the police. Investigators are also found falling short in their paperwork, which is vital to assembling evidence. The result: the police are not able to secure convictions in more than 15% of the cases they take to court.

“Public prosecutors come under the home and law and judiciary departments and most of the time there is a lack of coordination between public prosecutors and investigating officers. This often leads to acquittals or relatively lighter punishment for the accused in most cases,’’ said an officer. “These new appointments will certainly help us,’’ the officer added.


The legal experts, who will soon be appointed, would be required to look into details of cases. Incidentally, the decision to appoint them had already been sanctioned by the home department, but the police administration had been slow in executing it. But now in the wake of the Pareira case, in which the police have been criticised for shoddy investigation by the judge himself, all the appointments are likely to be carried out swiftly.

However, critics say this is a case of too little, too late. “These people
wake up after the damage is done. There are so many cases where injustice is done to the victim because of the shoddy manner in which the cases are dealt with by the police,’’ said lawyer Satish Maneshinde.

In the latest such case handled by the police, Pareira—who ran over seven persons and injured eight others on Carter Road—was sentenced to six months simple imprisonment. In the wake of public criticism over their handling of the case, the police have now decided to file an appeal in the Bombay high court seeking maximum punishment for Pareira.

Even in this case, one of the reasons pointed out for the relatively light sentence for Pareira was the lack of coordination between the investigating officers and the prosecutor.

“This is a typical thing. Most of the time, we are not properly briefed about a case and therefore it results in lack of coordination,’’ said a public prosecutor.

The appointment of the legal experts at different levels is now expected to bridge this gap. As per the proposal, every zonal deputy commissioner of police will be assisted by at least one law officer; regional additional commissioners and the police officer in charge of the economic offences wing (EOW) will be provided deputy legal advisors; and joint commissioners (crime, ATS and law and order) will be supported by a team of legal advisors. A chief legal advisor, who will head the team of law officers, will assist the commissioner of police.

Criminal lawyer Majeed Memon said the police should implement this plan seriously for the benefit of the public. “Let there be some seriousness in the assurances that the police are always giving to the people. I think the time has come when such assurances must be followed by serious action,’’ Memon said.
mateen.hafeez@timesgroup.com


The Times of India, April 17, 2007

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Police chief cagey: ‘Let me read order’


Police commissioner D N Jadhav

Archana Sharma and Mateen Hafeez|TNN


Mumbai: If the Mumbai police was rattled by judge Ajit Mishra’s open show of displeasure regarding the way the department investigated the Carter Road accident, it didn’t show at the commissionerate.

TOI spoke to police chief Dhananjay Jadhav after the court sentenced Alistair Pareira to six months
imprisonment. Jadhav didn’t seem flustered and stuck to an “I-have-to-readthe-judgment’’ refrain. EXCERPTS:

Q.
Pareira has been sentenced to six months of simple imprisonment for rash driving by the court. Are you satisfied with the judgment?
A. It all depends on the text of the judgment, on what basis the judge has given the sentence. Without reading that I won’t be able to give my reaction on the judgment.

Q.
The accident led to the death of 7 people. Will you appeal against the judgment?
A. Going on appeal cannot be an off
hand or an emotional reaction. We have to follow a procedure. After we consult with the prosecution, we forward a report to the Home department, which then releases a Government Resolution if we are going on appeal.

Q.
What do you have to say about the investigating officers reportedly bungling up the evidence?
A. I have to read the judgment and study what was presented before the court and what was not. We have to see if the evidence presented was indeed poor.

Q.
But an elementary thing like the blood report and results of the urine samples tested to establish whether alcohol was found in the accused’s body while driving was not placed before the court.

A. I will have to know why the evidence was not presented. Whether it contradicted with somebody else’s testimony, all such things will have to be studied.

Q.
What do you have to say about the fact that the pictures which were submitted to the court, were not the positives of the pictures clicked by the photographer appointed by the police?
A. We will see what comments the judge has made regarding that. And if there is any lapse by the investigating officers, it will be taken care of.


The Times of India, April 14, 2007

Agrawal case: Police to quiz kidnap kingpin

ABDUCTION RING


Mateen Hafeez | TNN


Mumbai: Dreaded extortionist Sayyed Aabid Hussain alias Alibhai, who was deported from Dubai last month, is likely to be questioned by the Mumbai police crime branch in the Raj Agrawal abduction case. Ali is charged in at least seven big abduction cases in several states. In every case, he had demanded more than Rs 1 crore as ransom.

Ali, 34, who is now in the custody of the Jubilee Hills police in Hyderabad, is said to be an associate of kidnap kingpin Aftab Aalam of UP.

“We have spoken to the Hyderabad police and will take custody of Ali on a transfer warrant once his police custody is over in at least five abduction cases in Hyderabad. He was found travelling on a fake passport in the UAE and was deported to India,’’ crime branch unit II head Jaywant Hargude said.

Ali’s name cropped up in the three-year-old Raj Agrawal abduction case when the crime branch was interrogating deported Dawood Ibrahim associate Abdul Qayyum. The latter told the police that Ali, along with Aalam, was running an organised abduction syndicate across the country. A resident
of Watanbaug in Andhra Pradesh, Ali fled to Dubai around five years ago.

In the Agrawal case, Raj, a 14-year-old Class IX student, was on his way to DPYA High School in Matunga on November 18, 2003, when he was abducted. His captors took him to an abandoned village near Daund, 100 km from Pune, and kept him there for 10 days. An unidentified person then called up Raj’s father, Kunjbihari, a real estate agent and money-lender, and demanded a ransom of Rs 5
crore to be paid through hawala. The callers were using the satellite network and the police could not track their location.

Kunjbihari, a resident of Dimple Apartment (that shared the compound with RAK Marg police station), blamed the police for interfering in the case after he failed to get his son rescued even after paying the ransom. “Those who kidnapped Raj handed him over to another group which took him to Daund. But one of the kidnappers, at whose house Raj was kept, feared Raj would identify them later and so they strangled him to death and buried him there,’’ a crime branch officer said.

It was only after four and a half months, when the gang kidnapped another boy from Hyderabad and kept him at Daund, that the Hyderabad police managed to get some links. The police then picked up six youths from Mumbai, four from Daund and two from Hyderabad. “The police then recovered Raj’s body. His father, however, refused to identify him, saying he was not his son. Ten of the accused are in jail and two are out on bail. The verdict is expected next month,’’ an official said.
mateen.hafeez@timesgroup.com


The Times of India, April 14, 2007

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

New twist in supari case

IN THE DOCK: Builder Rajendra Chaturvedi was arrested for his alleged involvement in a plot to eliminate a rival builder

Probe Into Builder’s Plot To Kill Rival Shows Discrepancies

Mateen Hafeez I TNN


Mumbai: Questions are now being raised regarding the investigations into a contract allegedly issued by a builder to kill a rival. The Juhu police have so far arrested six people including managing director of Shreepati Builders Rajendra Chaturvedi for his alleged involvement in a plot to eliminate rival builder Rashmikant Shah of the Vijay group.

The police had initially said that they had arrested four people including a man named Vijay Warkar, who allegedly hired two shooters to kill Shah outside Hotel Holiday Inn on February 25. Police claimed to have arrested the four people, seized weapons including two revolvers and two choppers and recovered Rs 12.5 lakh from them.

However, some discrepancies are now emerging in the police’s version. Sources said that Shah was never scheduled to turn up at the hotel in the first place. Secondly, the weapons were recovered from the residence of one of the accused and not seized from the spot, as initially claimed by police. There are also doubts being raised over the money
recovered from the gang. “Those who want to eliminate someone would come with weapons and not with Rs 12.5 lakh in cash,’’ said an officer on condition of anonymity.

The police had said that they intercepted the gang and found Shah’s photo with the number of his car written be
hind it. However, inquiries revealed that the number did not belong to Shah’s vehicle. Interestingly, assistant subinspector Jagdish Sail, who claimed to have foiled the conspiracy and arrested the four men, left for a six-week training course in Italy a few days after the arrests were made.

Chaturvedi was arrested on March 15. His arrest was followed by that of spiritual leader Baba Udaynath Maharaj who has been booked on similar charges.

“The four accused apparently told the police that Maharaj had issued a contract to eliminate Shah because he was not ready give up his
claim on a plot worth Rs 500 crore at Kalachowkie. As for Chaturvedi, they have arrested him on the basis of a statement given by the same four men,’’ said a police officer. “Going by that logic, they should have also grilled Shah because the four had also alleged that Shah’s men abducted Maharaj from Kalachowkie in January and took him to Kalyan jail for a meeting with gangster Ashwin Naik,’’ the officer said.

Sources said the case was increasingly getting murky and needed a thorough probe. A senior police officer’s role, in particular, needed scrutiny, said sources. “Though the case has been registered with Juhu police, the accused have not been kept here. They are kept in some other lock-up for reasons better known to some officers only,’’ a source said.

When contacted, Bipin Bihari, additional commissioner of police (western region), who is in overall charge of the probe, refused to comment on these issues. Regarding Shah’s involvement in the case, he said, “I don’t know if the four accused have said that Maharaj was kidnapped on the instructions of Rashmikant Shah.’’

mateen.hafeez@timesgroup.com



The Times of India, April 11, 2007

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Cops to be evaluated on attitude towards backward classes

Mateen Hafeez | TNN


Mumbai: Cops will now be judged by their attitude toward backward classes too. This new parameter has been added in the police force’s annual confidential report (ACR).

While a section of police officers appreciated the move, many feared it could be misused against them by ‘vindictive’ seniors.

ACR forms were sent to several police offices last week. But the cops were asked to return the old forms and write the ACR in the newly-printed forms as the “attitude towards backward class’’ parameter was not included in them.

Police sources said a good posting and increment depended on the ACR made by an officer of ACP rank and reviewed by seniors. The changes have been made in the ACR forms for officers from PSI to ACP rank.

The section, which has options like ‘helpful’, ‘sympathetic’, ‘unsympathetic’ and ‘neutral’, has been added in Part IV (estimate of general ability and character of officers) of the ACR form.
DGP P S Pasricha could not be contacted for comment.

mateen.hafeez@timesgroup.com

The Times of India, April 8, 2007

Friday, April 6, 2007

Spiritual guru arrested in plot to kill builder


COURTING TROUBLE: Baba Udaynath Maharaj comes out of the high court after his bail plea was rejected on Thursday

Mateen Hafeez I TNN

Mumbai:
Spiritual leader Baba Udaynath Maharaj (27) has been arrested by the Juhu police on charges of attempt to murder and for issuing a Rs 50-lakh supari to kill a builder, Rashmikant Shah of Vijay Group. Maharaj, the sixth person to be arrested in the case, was taken into custody soon after the Bombay high court rejected his bail application on Thursday.

Rajendra Chaturvedi, the man who constructed the country’s tallest building in south Mumbai, was the first person to be arrested in this case on March 15, allegedly for plotting to kill a rival builder. Chaturvedi, managing director of Shreepati Builders, along with Maharaj, was accused of having contracted to kill Shah for Rs 50 lakh.

“Maharaj has been arrested for issuing a supari and on charges similar to those made against Chaturvedi. He will be produced before the court on Friday,’’ Pradip Shinde, senior inspector of the Juhu police, said.

Shah was redeveloping a huge plot worth Rs 500 crore at Parel since 2002.

But, since the project’s progress was slow, residents approached Maharaj requesting him to find a builder known to him. Maharaj then called Chaturvedi and asked
him to take up the project in December 2006. But since Shah was not willing to give up the project, Maharaj and Chaturvedi hired four Chhota Rajan gangsters—Nisar Jaffar, Aslam Khan, Qasim Qureishi and Vijay Vadkar—to kill Shah. The four shooters were arrested on February 25 when they were waiting for Shah outside Hotel Holiday Inn. Vadkar told the police that he was paid Rs 12.5 lakh in advance and was also promised a hotel at Mahabaleshwar for killing Shah.

Maharaj runs a 20,000 sq ft math in Satara district and also owns 18 acres of land. He came to Mumbai a decade ago and became popular among politicians, top policemen and struggling film personalities. He is said to have over a lakh followers across Maharashtra; Chaturvedi was one of them.

The police are probing Maharaj’s properties and trying to find out how he managed to construct the math. They are also investigating the role of gangster Ashwin Naik in the case. Maharaj had allegedly gone to Kalyan Central jail where Naik is lodged.

The police say Chaturvedi is a former classmate of Naik and that they are probing his links with the gangster.

Highly placed officials said though Naik is jail, he still wields clout in the Kalachowky-Parel belt in Central Mumbai.

“We suspect a bigger conspiracy in this case. It is a case of a builder-underworld nexus. We will interrogate Naik, too, if needed,’’ said an officer.
mateen.hafeez@timesgroup.com


The Times of India, April 6, 2007

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Kingfisher scam accused involved in SIM card theft

Mateen Hafeez I TNN


Mumbai: Investigations into the theft of seven international SIM cards from Mahalaxmi have revealed a link between the accused and those arrested by the economic offences wing (EOW) for fraudulently booking 15,255 tickets of Kingfisher Airlines, causing a loss of Rs 13.47 crore.

The NM Joshi Marg police probing the SIM card theft case have taken Nazir Shaikh into custody on a transfer warrant from the EOW. Shaikh was first arrested in the Kingfisher case in February.


Sub-inspector Deepak Chauhan of the NM Joshi Marg police said that seven SIM cards were stolen in the last week of January from Metric Cellular India Pvt Ltd, located near Famous Studio. The company rents out international SIM cards to those who go abroad and charges them the bill and its fee. The stolen SIM cards were used for making national and international calls from an STD booth in Dubai.

Nazir and his accomplices had given the cards to people in Dubai on a rent of Rs 2,500 per day for each card.

“In January, the officials of
the firm saw the printout of records of all the mobile phone calls and found that the bills on the seven SIM cards totalled Rs 38 lakh. They checked the record but found that the cards were stolen. One of the thousands of calls from one of the SIM cards was made to a land line in Kurla on January 11. The next day, the SIM card was traced to Dubai. We came to know that one Hilal Farooqui, who works as an electrician in Dubai, had taken that card and left for Dubai,’’ Chauhan said.

The police later arrested a Nasik resident, Khurram, in the case. He said that the complainant firm’s business development executive, Suraj Ahir, (27), had stolen the card from his company and had given it to him.

Khurram later told Farooqui to deliver this card to someone in Dubai. “Farooqui didn’t know that the cards were stolen and, therefore, he will be a witness in our case,’’ said the police. Khurram, Ahir and Nazir have been sent to police custody.

The police are trying to collect information about the accused in the SIM card and the Kingfisher cases.

The police have arrested 14 persons, including Abdul Qayyum, an employee of hotel at Andheri, two call centre employees and two unemployed youths, Nazir and Shabbir, alias Arbaz, in the Kingfisher case. Qayyum used to steal credit card data from customers’ card and sell the information to Nazir and Arbaz, who used the data to book online air tickets. The police found the two were involved in at least 16 such transaction.

mateen.hafeez@timesgroup.com

The Times of India, April 3, 2007

Sunday, April 1, 2007

MALEGAON BLASTS - ‘Cop offered me lakhs to get arrested’


Director-general of police, P S Pasricha

Plot To Frame Locals: Informer

Mateen Hafeez | TNN


Mumbai: A 35-year-old police informer from Malegaon told director-general of police P S Pasricha on Friday that Krishna Prakash, superintendent of Amravati police, allegedly offered him lakhs of rupees to get himself arrested with a consignment of arms and ammunition. The police, he claimed, had hatched a conspiracy to implicate several residents of Malegaon in the blasts case. Pasricha ordered an inquiry into the case.

The informer, Abdus Salam, is a resident of the Fort area of Malegaon. He is at present externed from the jurisdiction of Malegaon. Police sources in Malegaon said Salam is involved in two murder cases, three attempts to murder and two incidents of rioting. He apparently gave information to several senior police officers in the textile town.


Salam was accompanied by office-bearers of Jamiat-ul-Ulema, an NGO, to Pasricha’s office. He alleged that Prakash called him to a bungalow in Amravati on March 18 and offered money in the presence of a plainclothes police officer from Delhi. The informer alleged that he was also shown firearms and ammunition at the bungalow. “Prakash told me that the police would nab me with this consignment and I would have to name several people from Malegaon in this case. Prakash also assured me that I would be released soon,’’ alleged Salam.

Salam further claimed that Prakash was constantly in touch with Malegaon’s additional superintendent of police Rajesh Pradhan while he was making the offer.


Prakash dismissed the allegation, saying, “He called me up and wanted help since he was externed from Malegaon. I never called him up. His mobile record should be examined. I arranged a room for him and offered him breakfast. Someone is trying to gain political mileage from this issue.”

Pasricha said: “He (Salam) has complained to me and I have instructed inspector-general of police P K Jain to look probe the matter. I am personally monitoring the inquiry, but it seems that this man (Salam) does not have a good reputation. There are several loopholes in his statement.’’

Pradhan, said: “I have not spoken to Prakash for the past three to four months. This is a baseless allegation and is being looked into by senior officers. Everything will be clear once the probe is over.’’

mateen.hafeez@timesgroup.com


The Times of India, April 1, 2007