- Mayank Bhagwat and Amruta Durve
- BBC Marathi, Bombay
On the morning of February 25, a vehicle loaded with explosives was found in the heart of Bombay., near the home of Mukesh Ambani, the richest man in Asia.
In the following days, the body of the alleged owner of the vehicle appeared and, according to the press, a police officer who knew the deceased was arrested.
Federal detectives set out to investigate a mystery that has quickly become something of a detective story with many loose ends.
According to Mumbai police, security personnel from Antilia, Ambani’s opulent 27-story residence, reported the presence of a Scorpio off-road truck colored green parked near the mansion on the morning of February 25th.
Police arrived with explosives disposal experts, cordoned off the area and examined the empty vehicle.
Inside found 20 bars of gelignite they weighed about 2.5 kg.
Gelignite, invented by Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, is a cheap explosive that requires a detonator.
The bars were not connected to each other or to any device.
A ballistics expert told the newspaper India Today that the explosives, had they detonated, would have been “enough to blow up the car.”
Five license plates were also found on the vehicle and a note addressed to Ambani and his wife, Nita.
“This is just a sample, next time we will connect (all these explosives) and come. We have made arrangements to blow up his entire family,” the note read.
Ambani, who is president of Reliance Industries, has an estimated fortune of more than $ 76 billion. The group’s main business is oil refining, but it also has significant investments in other sectors, including retail and telecommunications.
What do we know about the abandoned vehicle?
Mumbai police verified security camera footage from the night the mysterious vehicle appeared in front of Ambani’s residence on Carmichael Road, an upscale residential neighborhood dotted with luxury bungalows and apartment buildings.
The footage showed the Scorpio waiting at a busy intersection, about 15 km from Ambani’s residence around midnight.
At 01:40 local time, another white Toyota off-road vehicle joined the Scorpio and the two drove through deserted streets to Carmichael Road, where Ambani and her family have lived for the past ten years.
Both vehicles arrived at the scene around 02:30 local time. The Toyota followed the explosives-laden Scorpio, which stopped about 500 meters from Ambani’s home.
The footage then shows a man in protective gear getting out of the Scorpio and into the Toyota.
After that, the Toyota took off and was spotted shortly thereafter on the highway and entering a suburb called Thane, before leaving security camera coverage.
Who owned the car loaded with explosives?
Police tracked the abandoned Scorpio to Mansukh hiren, a local businessman who owned an auto accessories store in Thane.
When questioned, Hiren told investigators that the vehicle belonged to another man who had not paid him for renovation work on the vehicle. That is why he had “seized” the truck.
Hiren also told police that on February 17 he was traveling on a highway near Mumbai when the vehicle’s steering got stuck.
He parked the vehicle in the safety lanes of the freeway and went home, he said.
When he returned the next morning to pick up the car, he was not there. Hiren then filed a police report at the nearest police station.
The case of the bomb-laden vehicle in front of Ambani’s house quickly sparked a political storm in the state of Maharashtra.
On March 5, an opposition leader said Hiren should be given protection, as he was a key witness in the case.
Hours later, the news reported that Hiren’s body had been found on the banks of a stream near Mumbai.
What is known about Mansukh Hiren’s death?
Police claimed that on the night of March 4, Hiren left his tent for his home.
Upon arriving home, the merchant told his family that I had received a call from a policeman called “Agent Tawde” and he was going to meet him.
Hiren did not return home that night and the next day his family reported him missing.
Police later noted that Hiren had left home at 8 p.m. and that his phone was turned off just over three hours later.
The identity of the police officer Hiren said he was meeting with is still unknown.
The police later reported on a corpse that had appeared on the banks of a River.
The swollen body “had four or five handkerchiefs” tied around the face.
A preliminary postmortem report suggested drowning as a cause of death.
Mumbai police registered the case as murder, criminal conspiracy and destruction of evidence against “an unknown person”, following a complaint made by Hiren’s wife.
Meanwhile, the investigation into the explosives-laden car was carried out by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), a federal counter-terrorism unit.
Why was a policeman arrested?
Police officers who arrived on Carmichael Road upon receiving information about the abandoned vehicle included Sachin Vase, an assistant inspector in an elite force of the Bombay police.
Vaze claimed that he “arrived at the scene between three and four hours” after local police and higher officials.
On March 13, Federal detectives arrested Vaze after questioning him for 12 hours in connection with the case.
The next day, detectives found the missing Toyota truck in a garage belonging to the Bombay police.
Investigators believe Vaze was part of a plan to park the car with explosives outside Ambani’s home, an accusation the police officer denies.
The NIA charged Vaze with conspiracy, criminal intimidation and negligent conduct in handling explosives, and a court rejected his request for bail.
In the meantime, Hiren’s wife told the press that her husband knew Vaze well and that the two of them had worn the Scorpio for almost two years. The woman claimed that her husband had “gone out and came home” with Vaze.
The policeman, for his part, assured the press that he did not know Hiren nor does he know anything about his death.
Who is Sachin Vaze?
Sachin Vaze joined the police in 1990.
In Bombay he worked with a “specialized unit”, a small group of police officers who are largely credited with reducing the number of crimes in the city in the late 1990s.
Criminals feared them, human rights activists hated them, and their colleagues envied them.
Critics of the unit say that its members “are a law unto themselves” and often rub shoulders with criminals.
In May 2004, Vaze was suspended in connection with the death of an engineer from software 27 years in police custody.
Khwaja Yunus had been arrested by Vaze and his team in connection with an explosion in the city.
Vaze denied any responsibility for Yunus’s death.
The officer resigned from the police in 2007, but his resignation was not accepted.
In 2008, the suspended police officer joined Shiv Sena, the right-wing party that currently leads the ruling coalition in the state of Maharashtra, of which Bombay is the capital.
Shiv Sena leaders said Vaze “was not politically active.”
Last June, Vaze’s suspension was lifted and the officer went on to direct a Criminal Intelligence Unit.
Police spokesmen explained the lifting of the suspension due to staff shortages caused by the covid-19 pandemic, but some critics said it was a political favor.
Last week the Mumbai police suspended Vaze for the second time.
Vaze is now in police custody. His lawyers rejected all the accusations against him.
- What was the motive behind the parking of the vehicle with explosives near Ambani’s house?
- Why was there another vehicle, which was later found in a police garage?
- Who were driving the two SUVs?
- Was the vehicle really stolen with explosives?
- Who killed Hiren? And because?
Now you can receive notifications from BBC News Mundo. Download our app and activate them so you don’t miss our best content.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.