Mumbai: A special court in Mumbai on Thursday extended till April 3 the NIA custody of Assistant Police Inspector (API) Sachin Vaze, the prime accused in the SUV case that pertains to the explosives-laden Scorpio with a threat note that was found abandoned near Antilia, the residence of industrialist Mukesh Ambani.
Vaze was produced before the Special NIA Court after his NIA custody ended on Thursday and the agency secured his custody for another nine days, exactly a month after the SUV was found near Antilia on February 25.
Seeking extension of Vaze's custody by 15 days, Additional Solicitor-General Anil Singh, representing the NIA, said the agency had seized 62 live bullets from Vaze's home which are not yet accounted for since he was only issued 30 bullets by the police department, of which five have been accounted for.
He argued that when Vaze had allegedly gone to plant the SUV near Antilia, he reportedly collected and destroyed some critical CCTV footages of several places, and used fake id cards to check into a five-star hotel.
The NIA has already seized around half-a-dozen high-end cars and gathered forensic evidence like burnt clothes and mobile phone, other samples and blood traces from the vehicles which have now been sent for DNA profiling and further forensic analysis.
Seeking Vaze's extended custody, the NIA said that it wants to question him further and verify his statements by confronting him with the other accused who have been arrested in connection with the case.
In his submissions before the special court, Vaze and his lawyer Abad Ponda dismissed the NIA's contentions and urged that its plea for extending custody should be rejected, as he was innocent and was being framed in the entire matter.
"I am being made a scapegoat in this whole incident. I have nothing to do with the crime," pleaded Vaze, who was arrested on March 13, four days after the probe was handed over to the NIA on March 9 following a massive political furore.
He said that he had investigated the case for just one-and-a-half days, doing whatever was required as the IO, along with other Mumbai Police and Crime Branch officers, but something happened abruptly and when he went to the NIA office on March 13, he was arrested.
Advocate Ponda said that the NIA would also have to convince the court on invoking the stringent anti-terror provisions under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, on March 24, even as it was handed over the connected case pertaining to the death of Mansukh Hiran.
Thane-based businessman Hiran, who was in possession of the Scorpio, was found dead under mysterious circumstances on March 5.
A former high-profile 'encounter specialist', Vaze was suspended in 2004, joined the Shiv Sena briefly, and was reinstated to the police force in 2020.