Killing carried out at the behest of Chhota Rajan; motive still unknown

A little more than a fortnight after senior crime reporter J Dey was shot dead here, the Mumbai Police have arrested seven persons in the case and seized the murder weapon and the vehicles used in the killing.

Police claim that the accused have confessed that the contract killing was carried out at the behest of underworld gangster Chhota Rajan.

“The reputation of the Mumbai Police was at stake. We have finally been able to crack the case,” Mumbai Commissioner of Police Arup Patnaik said at a press conference here on Monday.

Police said they would slap the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) on the accused. “It does not look like there are more accused to be picked up as of now,” Additional Commissioner of Police Deven Bharti said.

According to police, all but one of the seven accused have criminal records. One of the accused, the main shooter who planned the killing, Rohee Thangappan Joseph alias Satish Kalya, is allegedly a hardened criminal and old shooter of the Chhota Rajan gang.

“There are three murder cases, one attempt to murder case and a fake passport case registered against him in the past,” Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Himanshu Roy said.

In police custody

A local court on Monday remanded the accused in police custody until July 4. Police have seized a .32 American-made sophisticated revolver, 20 rounds of Czech-made extra long cartridges (known for their accuracy and deadliness), five empty shells, three motor bikes and one Toyota Qualis vehicle used during the crime.

The names of those arrested are: Rohee Thangappan Joseph (34), Abhijeet Kasharam Shinde (28), Arun Janardan Dake (27), Sachin Suresh Gaikwad (27), Anil Bhanudas Waghmode (35), Nilesh Narayan Shedge alias Bablu (34) and Mangesh Damodar Agawane (25).

Of them, Kalya, Anil and Abhijeet were picked up from Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu on June 25. They were arrested after they were brought to Mumbai on June 26. Bablu was picked up from Solapur, Maharashtra, on June 25 and arrested after being brought to Mumbai on June 26. Sachin, Mangesh and Arun were held in Mumbai on June 26.

“The detention effort was simultaneous to avoid any of the accused tipping off the others,” Mr. Roy said.

Both Kalya and Anil are known shooters with involvement in three murder cases. “Both of them have served at least seven-eight years in prison. They were acquitted in the cases against them,” Mr. Roy said.

Kalya was apparently in touch with the gangster soon after the murder. “He probably called Chhota Rajan within half an hour of the murder,” a senior officer said.

Mr. Roy said the accused did not know the identity of the victim and panicked when they got to know that they had killed a journalist. “Kalya called up Chhota Rajan in the evening after watching the news on TV, saying that things were going to get very bad and that they did not know they were asked to shoot a journalist,” he said.

“Apparently Chhota Rajan asked them to leave the city and said that he would give them more money,” Mr. Roy said. The accused got a total amount of Rs. 5 lakh through hawala.

Soon after that, five of the accused left Mumbai and went to various pilgrimage places across the country. Bablu got down at Solapur, while Arun Dake felt homesick and returned to Mumbai from Bijapur. The rest of the three continued their pilgrimage till the police picked them up at Rameswaram.