Anil Deshmukh. Image Source: IANS News

Thane/Mumbai, Mar. March 8 : Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh on Monday said that the Anti Terrorist Squad (ATS) has registered a murder case and launched investigations into the mystery of Thane businessman Mansukh Hiren's body being recovered from the Thane Creek wetlands on March 5.

A stolen SUV Scorpio, belonging to Hiren, had been abandoned outside Antilia, the home of Reliance Industries Ltd. Chairman Mukesh Ambani on Feb. 25 and later 20 gelatin sticks and a purported threat letter were found in it.

Exactly 10 days later, Hiren's body was found in the Thane Creek, resulting in a political uproar after which it is now being probed as a murder case.

Deshmukh said that considering the circumstances and the appeals made by Hiren's family, including his widow Vimala, the case has been handed over to the ATS which will probe the murder angle.

The ATS has set up around 10 investigation teams to probe different aspects of the probe, which visited the Hiren family and the marshes from where his body was fished out last Friday (March 5).

On a complaint by Vimala Hiren, the ATS has registered a FIR under Indian Penal Code's Sec. 302 (murder), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence), 34 (common intention), and 120B (criminal conspiracy), against some unknown persons.

His family and friends rejected outright the 'suicide' theory since Hiren, 48, was a good swimmer, owned a car accessories business, in Thane.

On Saturday evening, Deshmukh held a meeting with Director-General of Police Hemant Nagrale, and the government wrote to Additional Director General of Police Jai Jeet Singh and ATS head, to take over the investigations.

In the letter to Singh, Deputy Home Secretary Ramesh Manale mentioned both the cases - the recovery of the SUV and gelatin sticks outside Antilia, coupled with the mystery death of Mansukh Hiren, the prime witness in the case, seeking an immediate probe and submitting the report to the government on priority.

Meanwhile, the gelatin sticks have been sent to the Forensics Science Laboratory, Mumbai for detailed analysis and to ascertain if the SUV chassis number of the car was tampered or changed, to help identify the real owner of the vehicle.

Earlier, Deshmukh informed the Maharashtra Legislature that the car belonged to one Sam Peter Newton and he had given it over to Hiren's company for interior refurbishment - since he could not pay up for the work done.

However, Bharatiya Janata Party's Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis, contested this pointing out how Hiren in his statement to the police had said that he had purchased the car from Newton.

Prior to his death, on March 2, Hiren had shot off a letter to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Deshmukh and the police chiefs of Mumbai and Thane alleging harassment.

"I have already given my explanation and statements about how the vehicle was stolen, and I am being victimised and suffering harassment by police and news reporters," Hiren's letter said, adding that he had been repeatedly interrogated by the Vikhroli and Ghatkopar police stations, Crime Intelligence Unit and Nagpada unit of ATS and also NIA.

"The interrogation by various agencies disturbed my peace of mind. In spite of being a victim, I am treated as an accused. I have also been receiving calls from media houses who have been harassing me and my family," he said.

The alleged threat letter, how the gelatin sticks were found in the SUV and tracking the vehicles' original owner shall be matters of the investigation.

-- The story has been published from a wire feed without any modifications to the text

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