Maharashtra to look into ATS chief’s ‘underworld links’

Deven Bharti. File  

The Maharashtra government is looking into the State Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) chief Deven Bharti’s alleged links with the underworld based on a two-year-old letter from gangster Vijay Palande to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC).

Mr. Palande, an accused in a 2012 double murder case, is lodged in Taloja jail

Last week, on February 12, Home Minister Anil Deshmukh wrote on a file, reviewed by The Hindu, calling for an explanation from Director General (DG) of Police Subodh Kumar Jaiswal, and asked him to hold a meeting to discuss the letter.

The letter, a copy of which is with The Hindu, was written on December 31, 2018 and forwarded to the State Home Department in October 2019 by the CVC and Union Home Ministry. It was then sent to the Home Minister for his views, who wrote, ‘To be discussed’.

“We are calling for a meeting to discuss the issue with the DG and Additional Chief Secretary (Home),” said a Home Department source.

Senior police officials said the letter needs to be taken with a pinch of salt, given that it is the handiwork of a ‘disgruntled accused’. “Much of the content of this letter cannot be verified,” said a senior officer.

Mr. Bharti, too, raised questions about the letter being taken seriously. “A serial killer, gangster, accused in six murder cases and other serious cases is arrested in 2012. He makes a motivated, malicious and wild complaint in 2018 and it is being peddled in 2020,” Mr. Bharti said. There was a need, he added, to look into who was behind “peddling this news and conniving, aiding and abetting a thoroughbred criminal in furthering his nefarious agenda,” he said. “If the media starts playing into the hands of accused criminals, this will set a wrong precedent and encourage accused persons to level unsubstantiated allegations against investigators.”

In the letter, Mr. Palande has alleged Mr. Bharti’s proximity to underworld gangsters Chhota Shakeel, and gang members such as Umar Chikoo, Salim Maharaj and Ahmed Langda. He also alluded to a ₹10,000-crore criminal empire being run by Mr. Bharti, which included a close network with gangster Ejaz Lakdawala.

The letter also said Mr. Bharti took ₹2 crore as bribe from Anuj Tikku, son of Arun Tikku, whose murder Mr. Palande and his associate Simran Sood have been accused of.

“Deven Bharti took ₹2 crore from from Anuj Tikku’s family to exonerate him of his father’s murder. He had given a contract to kill his own father to Dhananjay Shinde, a henchman of Santosh Shetty. Due to Deven Bharti’s blessings, Anuj Tikku was not charged at all,” said the letter.

The letter also accused Mr. Bharti of running a criminal empire along with gangsters, and refers to his proximity to gangster Santosh Shetty, Chhota Shakeel and Chhota Rajan.

Gangster Santosh Shetty, the letter said, continued to work with Mr. Bharti, but soon, Chhota Rajan discovered this and developed an animosity towards him. “Meanwhile, Bharti grabbed all the matka operations in the State.”

The letter also said gangster Sudhakar Shetty became Mr. Bharti’s ‘gang member’. “All illicit money was being parked at Sudhakar’s office on behalf of Mr. Bharti,” the letter said.

Additional Chief Secretary Sanjay Kumar refused to confirm the note or the letter. “I will have to check and get back to you on this,” he told The Hindu.

S.H. Kurlekar, Superintendent of Police, Taloja jail, denied information of the letter even though Mr. Palande has given his postal address as, ‘A 342, Room No. 49, High Security Anda Cell, Taloja Central Prison.’ “I have no information on (my) file of any such letter moving out of my prison,” Mr. Kurlekar said.

The Home Minister did not respond to calls and text messages till the time of going to press.

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Printable version | Dec 1, 2021 5:17:53 PM |

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