Five days prior to the murder of Navi Mumbai builder Sunil Kumar Loharia, his killers recced the area near his office in Vashi, which was later the scene of the crime.
The Mumbai Crime branch investigating the murder case has also learnt that Emmanuel Amolik - a former encounter specialist who is also an accused in the case - had met Loharia's rival and another accused, builder Suresh Bijlani, after the shooters bumped off Loharia. After being attacked, Loharia had taken Bijlani's name minutes before he passed away, his utterance being heard by his office boy and a rickshaw-wala who were at the spot.
"There is enough evidence with us to prove that Amolik was in touch with Bijlani and the shooters. The call log details show everything," revealed a Crime Branch officer who is investigating the case. After the shooters carried out the killing, Amolik met Bijlani to deliberate over the next move. After meeting Bijlani, Amolik went to the hospital where Loharia had been taken and confirmed that he was dead.
Meanwhile, the name of one of the accused, Venkatesh Shettiyar, has also cropped up in the Vinod Shetty shootout case. Shetty was considered a close aid to Chhota Rajan. Shetty had allegedly helped Chhota Shakeel trace Rajan, after which an attack was carried out on him in 2000, which he miraculously survived.
"Shettiyar was arrested in 2006 by Amolik, after which the two developed a friendship," said a Crime Branch officer. Police confirmed that Bijlani and his associate Anurag Garg, an architect, have been named in the FIR lodged by Sunil Kumar Loharia's son. Bijlani and Garg had a long-standing dispute with Loharia over a flat.
Bijlani had allegedly threatened Loharia after the latter sought details of his projects under the RTI Act. The shooter Venkatesh Shettiyar's call details show he was in touch with Amolik who, in turn, was in contact with Bijlani and Garg.
Meanwhile, taking note of the evidence filed against Bijlani by the Crime Branch officers, the High Court rejected Bijlani's bail application. "We submitted an envelope with all the evidence against Bijlani to the High Court," confirmed Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Himanshu Roy. Garg too suffered the same fate.
Last Wednesday, a Thane court had also rejected their plea, after which they moved High Court. Judge RC Chavan rejected the applications on the grounds that no case had been made for relief. The court also rejected their plea for interim protection to approach the Supreme Court, as such protection had not been granted by the lower court, either.
Confirming the development, Ramesh Tripathi, Bijlani's lawyer, said, "The High Court has rejected our client's anticipatory bail plea." Noted lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani appeared as counsel for the accused. "I am thankful to Thane Metropolitan Court and High Court who rejected the anticipatory bail applications of Bijlani and Garg. I believe there is a deep-rooted conspiracy planted by these people and a few police officers," said Sunny, the victim's son.
Ramesh Mahale, head of the special investigation team (SIT) said, "We are searching for Bijlani. We have strong circumstantial evidence that Bijlani is involved in the murder." A close associate of Bijlani's told MiD DAY that he was paying Amolik, who worked as his bodyguard, a salary of Rs 1,00,000 per month. He also provided Amolik with a flat in Panvel.