A fresh ‘letter bomb’ exploded in Mumbai on Wednesday. The letter was handwritten by arrested assistant police inspector Sachin Vaze, and addressed to NIA special court, names three Maharashtra ministers. They include Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s right hand man, transport minister Anil Parab.
In the four-page handwritten letter, Vaze alleged that the then home minister Anil Deshmukh, deputy CM Ajit Pawar and Anil Parab asked him to “collect” extortion money. Vaze alleged that Anil Parab asked him to initiate talks with SBUT (Saifee Burhani Improvement Trust) for a “Rs 50-crore settlement” to close an inquiry. According to the letter, Anil Parab asked Vaze to identify fraudulent BMC contractors and demand at least Rs 2 crore from 50 of them.
In his letter, Vaze wrote how home minister Anil Deshmukh demanded Rs 2 crore to reinstate him after NCP supremo Sharad Pawar considered cancelling Vaze’s appointment. Vaze also alleged that in November, 2020, one Darshan Ghodawat, claiming to be “very close” to Ajit Pawar asked him to collect Rs 100 crore a month from illegal gutkha sellers. The man, according to Vaze, explained to him about “illegal gutkha and tobacco trade” in Maharashtra and gave him phone numbers. “The said Mr (man) insisted I should collect a monthly amount of Rs 100 crore from these illegal gutkha sellers”, Vaze wrote in his letter. Waze wrote, he was warned by Darshan Ghodawat, he would lose his post if he refused to do such an illegal act. He claimes, Darshan asked him to meet gutkha traders and tell them to meet Ajit Pawar.
The letter reiterated ex-police chief Parambir Singh’s allegation that Anil Deshmukh had asked police officers to arrange a collection of Rs 3 lakh to Rs 3.5 lakh each from 1,680 bars and restaurants.
The letter says, in August 2020, Vaze was called to Anil Parab’s official bungalow and asked to look into the SBUT complaint, which was under preliminary inquiry. He was told to “bring the trustees for negotiations about the inquiry”. He (Parab) also “insisted to initiate primary talks to get Rs 50 crore from SBUT to close the said inquiry. I expressed my inability to do any such things as I do not know anyone from SBUT and I also did not have any control over the inquiry”, the letter said.
Waze also alleged that in January this year, Parab called him to his bungalow and “asked me to look into the inquiry against fraudulent contractors listed in the BMC”. The letter says, “he told me to collect at least Rs 2 crores from about 50 such contractors. He said the inquiry is undergoing on an anonymous complaint. The said inquiry was under preliminary inquiry in the CIU and until my transfer from CIU, nothing incriminating was found”.
In his letter, Sachin Vaze claimed he was innocent and was framed because he refused to carry out extortions. But was he indeed innocent? One should try to understand the meaning of the allegations that he has made in his letter.
There was another development on Wednesday. A confidential report prepared by Jt. Commissioner (Crime) of Mumbai Police, Milind Bharambe says, the crime branch chief had objected to the posting of Sachin Vaze in CIU in June last year, after his reinstatement following a 17-year suspension, but he was overruled by the then-police chief Parambir Singh. The then JCP(crime) Santosh Rastogi unwillingly agreed, says the report.
The report says, Sachin Vaze never reported to any officer of the crime branch during his nine months’ tenure from June 2020 to March 12 this year. No officer of the crime branch gave any review opinion/directions in investigations handled by Waze because he directly reported to the commissioner, the report said.
Look at the timing. Three hours after this confidential report was leaked to the media, Sachin Vaze’s handwritten letter written to the NIA court surfaced. In his letter, Vaze claims he was framed because he refused to comply with ministers’ orders to “collect” money. In his letter, Vaze has spared two top leaders – NCP supremo Sharad Pawar and Shiv Sena supremo Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
Reacting to Waze’s letter, Shiv Sena leader Anil Parab said, he knew BJP leaders had been claiming that he would be the next minister to quit. “They (BJP leaders) had been planning this for last several days, and once CBI took up the probe, they used Waze to train his guns at me”, Parab said. He also took an emotional line and said, “I have learnt politics from Bal Thackeray. I cannot commit such acts. I swear on the head of my two daughters, I did not do anything wrong”.
Imagine, Sachin Waze was in Shiv Sena. Another encounter specialist Pradeep Sharma was a Shiv Sena candidate. If these police officers blame Shiv Sena leaders for corruption, how can their allegations be ignored? Anil Parab said this was a plan to defame the Shiv Sena. A few days ago, Anil Deshmukh said the same thing before he had to quit after the High Court order. How can anyone accept Parab’s claim that it is the BJP which is orchestrating everything and forcing Waze to write a letter to the court?
Here I would like to mention: Sachin Waze is not an upright police officer. All the evidences that have surfaced over the last few weeks clearly show that he was involved in objectionable acts. Waze was close to some top leaders. He is being suspected to be involved in a murder and carrying out a conspiracy to plant explosives. His fleet of luxury cars, his permanently booked hotel room, a currency note counting machine, all these evidences clearly point towards his shady character. Waze is not innocent. It appears, he was hand in gloves with those against whom he has levelled charges. Now that the can of worms has opened, they are hurling charges against one another to save their own skin.
Claims and counter-claims apart, the scene that is emerging in Maharashtra clearly indicates that the state government is trying to prove that Sachin Waze was Parambir Singh’s man, while the ex-police chief alleges that Waze was Anil Deshmukh’s man. It does not matter whom Waze was working for, but the fact has now come out in the open that an assistant police inspector in Mumbai was collecting crores of rupees.
There are three aspects to Sachin Waze’s letter: First, Maharashtra government today sought to create the impression that Waze was ex-police chief Parambir Singh’s man. It was Parambir who appointed him to head the Crime Intelligence Unit. He used to report directly to the police commissioner.
Second, the state government sought to distance Anil Deshmukh from Sachin Waze, to show that the ex-minister was not involved in this ‘collection’ business. But today’s letter from Sachin Waze clearly substantiates Parambir’s allegation that it was Deshmukh who asked him to collect Rs 100 crore from bars and restaurants.
The third and most important aspect of Waze’s letter is that he was not trying to expose the scandal. He was only trying to project himself as innocent and that he had refused to obey the orders of ministers to extort money. His letter clearly shows that his lawyer will be making this plea while defending Waze in court.
One has to keep in mind that Sachin Waze was not an innocent and upright police officer. He remained suspended from service for 16 years on charges of fake encounters and extortions. He had a room booked in an expensive 5-star hotel for 100 days a year. He owned seven luxury cars though his salary was Rs 60,000 a month. Each of these luxury cars costs more than Rs one crore.
After going through his letter, I have no hesitation in saying that Sachin Waze has a diabolical mind. He wants to extricate himself out of the mess by portraying himself as an innocent police officer who refused to toe his ministers’ line. Waze wants to make others as scapegoats for crimes of extortion committed by him and his cronies.
It is now for the courts to decide on the case taking all circumstantial evidences and statements of witnesses into account. Only then will Sachin Vaze’s accusations levelled against three top ministers of the Maharashtra government can be evaluated.
For the moment, the problems are piling up one upon another for Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. The opposition BJP has got a readymade scandal to train its guns at the coalition government. The Chief Minister is now busy fighting a two-pronged protracted battle, one, against corruption charges and two, against the ever-expanding Covid pandemic in his state.
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