In a significant development, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) raided former encounter specialist Pradeep Sharma’s Andheri home and later detained him, as part of the ongoing probe into the cases of SUV planting and businessman Mansukh Hiran murder, here on Thursday morning.
The NIA action came in the sensational case of the SUV with 20 gelatin sticks and a threat note abandoned near Antilia, home of industrialist Mukesh Ambani on February 25.
Soon after that, the police recovered the body of the SUV owner from the Thane Creek marshes on March 5, as both the cases triggered a huge political row.
Sharma, a controversial former Senior Police Inspector and later a Shiv Sena activist, had been earlier interrogated by the NIA a couple of times last April.
Last week, the NIA had arrested two other persons Santosh Atmaram Shelar and Anand Pandurang Jadhav, both from a slum pocket in Kurar village of Malad east for their roles in the twin cases.
Police sources said that after their custodial interrogation more details of Sharma emerged and culminated in today’s action.
Earlier, the NIA had arrested five other persons including former policemen like Sachin Vaze, Riyazuddin Kazi, Sunil Mane, a convicted ex-cop Vinayak Shinde and a cricket bookies Naresh Gor.
Sharma is reported to be close to Vaze, who is named as one of the prime accused in the SUV-Hiran case, and the duo had allegedly met in early-March when the plot to eliminate Hiran was hatched, while Sharma had gone to the Mumbai Police Commissionerate to meet some other persons.
A former college professor-turned-policeman of the 1983 batch state cadre, he built up a formidable reputation for wiping out the Mumbai mafia through the so-called ‘encounter killings’.
However, Sharma was dismissed from the police force in 2008 for alleged links with the underworld, but was reinstated after 10 years when the charges against him failed.
He started his second innings with a bang by arresting Iqbal Ibrahim Kaskar — the younger sibling of absconding mafia don Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar — in September 2017, on extortion charges.
In 2019, he quit the police force to join the Shiv Sena and contested the Assembly elections unsuccessfully from Nalasopara constituency in Palghar.