As National Investigation Agency continues to tighten its noose in the Sachin Vaze case, the central agency’s axe has fallen on the latter’s mentor Pradeep Sharma, who is one of the five officers who are under the NIA’s scanner. Currently, the central agency is interrogating the Shiv Sena leader and former policeman, ‘encounter specialist’ Pradeep Sharma, for his alleged involvement in the Antilia bomb scare case.
Earlier in the day, Republic TV had reported that Sachin Vaze named Sharma in his confession. He had reportedly confessed that Sharma had helped him procure the gelatin sticks that were planted in the SUV outside Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani’s residence. Vaze also told the central agency that he had met Pradeep Sharma on March 3rd and 4th.
Who is Pradeep Sharma?
Ex-cop Pradeep Sharma is the newest entrant in the list of Mumbai police officers who are being investigated for their alleged link with the Sachin Vaze case. Pradeep Sharma (58) is better known for being part of the Mumbai Police’s encounter squad, which Sachin Vaze and other officers were also a part of.
Sharma’s dismissal and reinstatement
Sharma joined the State Police Service in 1983 as a sub-inspector. He was first posted to the Mahim police station in Mumbai and was later moved to the special branch in Juhu, Mumbai. Rising through the ranks, Sharma went on to head the police stations in other suburbs of Mumbai. He eventually became a senior Inspector in the crime intelligence unit of the Mumbai police, until he was dismissed by the Maharashtra government on August 31, 2008, for his alleged involvement and contacts with criminals.
The dismissal of Sharma from the police force came after the Intelligence Bureau (IB) tapped an alleged telephone conversation between Sharma and Dawood Ibrahim henchman Chhota Shakeel. This resulted in an inquiry against Sharma following his dismissal.
In 2009, the Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal (MAT) quashed his dismissal order for his alleged links with the underworld don.
Subsequently, in 2010, Pradeep Sharma was arrested in an alleged 2006 fake encounter of criminal Lakhan Bhaiyya, a close aide of gangster Chhota Rajan. After spending four years in jail Sharma was acquitted in 2013.
Sharma’s acquittal was subsequently challenged in the Bombay High Court by the state. He was the only one to be acquitted as 13 other cops in his team were convicted and given life imprisonment. While three policemen were convicted for murder, 10 were convicted for aiding and abetting the encounter.
In 2017, Sharma was, however, cleared of all charges and reinstated into the police force. He was made the senior of the Anti Extortion Cell of the Thane police then led by Param Bir Singh, the former Mumbai Police Commissioner who is also being probed for his involvement in the murder of businessman Mansukh Hiren and Antilia bomb scare case.
Pradeep Sharma and his Shiv Sena links
The former encounter cop, however, quit the Mumbai Police in 2019 after having served for over 30 years following which he joined the Shiv Sena. He contested in the 2019 Maharashtra Assembly elections from the Nalasopara constituency. Sharma, however, lost to Bahujan Vikas Aaghadi’s Kshitij Thakur by over 40,000 votes. At the time of contesting elections, Sharma in his affidavit had declared assets of Rs 36.21 crore in his and his wife’s name.
Now, the trouble for this ‘encounter-cop’, who has for all these years has shared an extremely close relationship with the Shiv Sena Party, has increased after Sachin Vaze reportedly named him in his confession today.
Sachin Vaze has reportedly said that Sharma helped him procure the gelatin sticks that were implanted in the SUV found outside the residence of Mukesh Ambani. In his confession to the NIA, Sachin Vaze further claimed that Pradeep Sharma was with him during the nights of March 3 & 4 and was also present on the night when Sachin Vaze had actually called Mansukh Hiren to come and meet him. Vaze told NIA that Pradeep Sharma was using SIM cards acquired from Gujarat. Sharma is also being interrogated by NIA.
Sharma is being questioned by the NIA for his alleged connection with arrested-suspended Assistant Police Inspector (API) Sachin Vaze. He was questioned for more than 8 hours yesterday. The NIA is continuing to interrogate him today.