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Deshmukh’s aides grilled in extortion case; NIA arrests Sachin Waze's associate


MUMBAI: The CBI on Sunday questioned two personal staffers of former Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh in connection with the allegations of extortion leveled against him by former Mumbai Police Commissioner Parambir Singh.

Deshmukh’s personal assistant Kundan Shinde and personal secretary Sanjeev Palande appeared before the CBI team in connection with its ongoing preliminary enquiry at the DRDO guest house in Santacruz.

Parambir Singh, in his explosive letter, had claimed that Palande was present when Deshmukh had allegedly asked Sachin Waze to extort Rs 100 crore each month from various bars and restaurants in Mumbai. Waze, too, in his statement to the NIA had claimed that Shinde was present during one such conversation. Waze has since been arrested by the NIA in the Antilia bomb scare case.

The CBI has so far recorded the statements of Singh, Sachin Waze, DCP Raju Bhujbal, ACP Sanjay Patil, advocate Jayshree Patil, a petitioner, and hotel owner Mahesh Shetty. Singh had moved the Bombay High Court after he was shunted out as the Mumbai Police Commissioner and dissed by Deshmukh.

Taking note of the serious ness of the allegations, the HC had ordered a preliminary enquiry into the case by CBI and set a 15-day deadline for its report. Hours after the April 5 HC order, Deshmukh had resigned from the cabinet.

Meanwhile, the NIA on Sunday arrested police officer Riyaz Kazi, an associate of suspended cop Sachin Waze, in connection with the case of an explosives-laden SUV found near industrialist Mukesh Ambani's residence, a police official said.

After his arrest, Kazi was produced before a holiday court here which remanded him in the National Investigation Agency's (NIA) custody till April 16 for further probe into the case.

"Assistant police inspector (API) Kazi was called for questioning again by the NIA on Sunday and later placed under arrest," the police official said.

He was previously also questioned multiple times by the NIA in connection with the case of the SUV with explosives found near Ambani's multi-storey residence 'Antilia' in south Mumbai on February 25 and the subsequent death of Thane businessman Mansukh Hiran.

Kazi was shunted out of the Mumbai Crime Branch last month, the official said.

After Kazi was presented in the court on Sunday, the NIA told the court that he was arrested for destroying evidences and that he is involved in the conspiracy of the case along with Waze, the main accused in the case.

While seeking his remand for 10 days, the prosecution said that when the NIA startedconducting a parallel probe soon after explosives-laden vehicle was found, the accused allegedly killed Hiran fearing that he will disclose their plan.

The prosecution also submitted that Kazi was well aware of the crime.

After the case was transferred to the central agency, the accused started destroying evidences like CPU and DVR and others, the NIA told the court.

Kazi's custody is required to confront him with every recovered article, documents, witnesses.

Waze has given half the facts andKazi's interrogation iss required to find out under whose guidance he destroyed the evidence, it said.

He also needs to be interrogated about the source of the gelatin sticks (found in the SUV).

Opposing the remand plea, Kazi's lawyer, Hasnain Kazi, argued that his client was not involved in the destruction of evidence.

The accused has been going to the NIA office for interrogation since the last20 days and co-operating with theinvestigation, hence his custody was not required, the lawyer said.

After hearing both the sides, the judge remanded the accused to NIA's custody till April 16.

According to police, in a CCTV footage, Kazi was seen entering a number plates shop in suburban Vikhroli and having a conversation with the outlet's owner.

He was also seen taking away a digital video recorder and a computer of the shop.

Kazi was also seen collecting CCTV footage from Waze's housing complex in neighbouring Thane, the official said.

The probe agency suspects that Kazi assisted Waze in obtaining fake number plates used for the SUV found with explosives near Ambani's residence in south Mumbai, he said.

Hiran, who was in possession of the SUV, was found dead in a creek in Thane on March 5. The NIA arrested Waze on March 13 in connection with its probe into the case.

The probe agency had also arrested former policeman Vinayak Shinde and cricket bookie Naresh Gor. All the three are currently in judicial custody.