Nearly two weeks after a blaze at Kamala Mills Compound killed 14 people, two of the absconding accused, owners of resto-bar 1Above, Kripesh and Jigar Sanghvi, were arrested by the Mumbai Police from Bandra on Wednesday. The arrests come a day after the Mumbai Police picked up hotelier and alleged cricket bookie, Vishal Kariya, who provided leads to the police. Kariya is a close family friend of the accused.
“The Sanghvi brothers, who were wanted in the blaze case, have been apprehended. The legal formalities will follow,” said Joint Commissioner of Police (law and order), Deven Bharti.
According to sources, the Sanghvi brothers were on their way to meet a lawyer when a police team from N M Joshi Marg took them in custody.
“During interrogation, Kariya had revealed that he had advised the absconding accused to seek legal help from a prominent lawyer. Following the lead, a team was kept stationed near the lawyer’s residence. Between 11 pm and 11.30 pm on Wednesday, the two brothers were apprehended near Link Road in Bandra. The team was waiting in a car and after spotting the duo crossing the road, a few officials chased and caught them,” said another senior officer on condition of anonymity. The police are looking for for the third partner, Abhijeet Mankar. “Mankar was not found with them but we are confident that we will get him soon. We suspect that the two brothers are aware of his whereabouts and their interrogation will help us get more leads on Mankar,” added the officer.
Sources said the Sanghvis and Mankar landed at hotelier and alleged cricket bookie Vishal Kariya’s residence on December 29. Kariya, sources said, arranged for two vehicles and finances. The police had arrested Kariya on Tuesday after Mankar’s Audi was found at his residence. Kariya has been remanded in police custody till January 17.
“We have learnt that after the fire broke out and first reports of casualties surfaced, the Sanghvis got in touch with Kariya who asked them to come over to his suburban residence. Kariya, who is a cricket bookie and an informer of a few senior police officers with the state police and central agencies, assured the absconding accused that he would assist them in their case. However, after realising the gravity of the tragedy, Kariya provided them with two vehicles and some cash. The trio left his residence after a good two hours,” said an officer.
Sources added that it was at Kariya’s residence that the Sanghvis got in touch with their father Mansukh who is based in Dubai. They discussed with him the plan to approach the lawyer to defend their case. During the interrogation, Kariya who initially denied having links with the trio, broke down and admitted about providing cars to the accused. “We suspect that he also provided cash for them to survive but he hasn’t come out clean on that front,” added the officer. The police is now studying his Call Data Records (CDRs) and chat history to see who he was in touch with. Owing to complicities of Kariya, we did not book him just for harbouring the accused but in the primary case of culpable homicide not amounting to murder,” he added.
The city police has formed at least seven teams that are fanned across the country to arrest the accused. The last workable lead on the owner of the other resto-bar, Mojo’s Bistro, who is a co-accused in the main case, was on Sunday when Yug Tulli, along with his newly-wedded wife, was spotted at Hyderabad airport. “Tulli fled to Hyderabad to his paternal home along with his wife on Sunday morning. His immediate family, including his father are also in Hyderabad. His father had left Hyderabad when our team reached Nagpur to summon him. We are still trying to trace where the couple has fled,” said another officer.
The police have questioned members of the agency who were hired by 1Above to convey their version to the press. “In their statements, they claimed that while they have no access to wanted accused, their father was in touch with them through calls made through Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and he was the one who commissioned and cleared the statements that were sent to the members of the press,” added the officer.
Fourteen people, including 13 patrons and one staff member, died in the fire at the Kamla Mills Compound on December 29. The police has booked the owners of two resto-bars, Abhijeet Mankar, Kripesh and Jigar Sanghvi of 1Above and Mojo’s Bistro in the case. While Mojo’s Bistro’s owner, Yug Pathak, the son of retired IPS officer K K Pathak, has been arrested, other owner, Yug Tulli, has been absconding and has not been granted an interim relief by a Mumbai court. Earlier the police had arrested two persons — Kevin Bawa and Libson Lopez — who worked as managers at 1Above pub. The duo have been sent to judicial custody.
Last week, the Mumbai Police had announced a reward of Rs 1 lakh for anyone who gave information about Abhijeet Mankar, Kripesh and Jigar Sanghvi. The trio have been absconding since the day of the fire.