Hotelier alleges that gangsters, Congress man and builder are issuing threats to him over a land dispute; murder accused Vijay Palande sends cryptic warning message from prison
The dark underbelly of Mumbai's real estate has been exposed again. Hinting at the underworld funnelling money into the sector through politicians, a 30-year-old hotelier and legal adviser from Kandivli, Rakesh Shetty, has alleged that Harish Mandvikar, notorious gangster and matka king Suresh Bhagat's killer; his aide, Deepak Pandey; ward-8 Congress corporator Shiva Shetty, builder Santosh Sawant have threatened him and his family with dire consequences if he refuses to settle a dispute over a prime plot in Borivli for Rs 50 lakh.
The current market value of the 3,845-sqft land is over Rs 10 crore. Rakesh also alleged that serial murder accused Vijay Palande, who is behind bars, also sent him a cryptic warning on toeing the line.
In his statement to the police and the FIR filed on Wednesday (mid-day has copies of both), Rakesh said he and his family were enjoying a movie at a mall in Malad last Sunday when he received a call from an unknown number. The caller — Mandvikar (39), who is out on parole for a family member's marriage while serving a double life term for Bhagat's murder in Goa in 2010 — was no stranger. Rakesh, the gangster, his aide, Sunny, and Sawant had met once earlier, hoping to arrive at an out-of-court settlement over the land dispute (see box). Mandvikar told Rakesh to meet him and Sunny the next day.
"As planned, I met Sunny at a burger joint and proceeded for the meeting around 6 pm in Porsa Pada in Kandivli. After waiting there for 15 minutes, we were joined by Deepak Pandey," Rakesh told the police.
Threats and assault
He alleged that the men tried to browbeat him into accepting a paltry R50 lakh to settle the dispute, and threatened to harm and rape his wife if he refused. The men allegedly turned more and more sinister by the minute. "I was asked, 'Tune ab tak kya faisla kiya hai? Ya hum faisla karen? (Have you taken a decision yet or should we decide?)… I bought time, saying I had to consult my partner before making any commitment," said Rakesh.
The note purportedly from serial murder accused Vijay Palande
The hotelier also alleged that Pandey hit his nose with a kada, wielded a hammer before him, and reiterated the threat of rape and murder, if he did not withdraw an earlier case of extortion against him and settle the land matter. Rakesh was then let off.
Later that night, Mandvikar visited Rakesh at his office and pretended to sympathise with him for Pandey's brutality. However, he also warned him against going to the police. "When I refused, I was taken on his bike to a desolate spot near Linkway Hotel. After a brief conversation, he left and I approached the Kandivli police station to give a statement," said Rakesh.
Warning from behind bars
It was at the police station the next day, when he went to file an additional statement, that the extent of the ominous nexus dawned on Rakesh. While waiting to talk to the police, a man thrust the mulaakaat sheet (the list of names of all visitors to the police lockup for the day) into his hand. The man was apprehended and questioned by the police, who said he was a small-time intermediary. On the list was scrawled a warning message, allegedly from hardcore criminal Vijay Palande: 'Rakesh! Hi, He is my younger brother — Always remember.' It was signed 'Vijay Palande'.
What shook Rakesh was that Palande is currently lodged at the Thane Central Jail for the murders of aspiring producer Karan Kakkar in 2012 and three others. Rakesh believes that Palande was referring to Mandvikar in his note.
The Kandivli police filed an FIR on Wednesday against Mandvikar, Pandey, Shiva Shetty and Sawant under Sections 195 A (threatening any person to give false evidence), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 506 (2) (criminal intimidation) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the IPC. Sudhir Dalvi, inspector of the Kandivli police station, told mid-day yesterday that he had just taken charge of the case and is investigating the complaint.
The other side
In an alleged conversation that corporator Shiva Shetty had with Rakesh on Thursday, he said he has a 20% stake in the property. He, however, told mid-day that he had not done or said anything wrong. Levelling counter-allegations, he said the hotelier is a cheat and has cases filed against him in Borivli, Nagpada and MIG police stations. "He tried to sully the name of one of my partymen, Abhijit Kale. All I told him not to frame an innocent man."
He denied having a 20% stake in the property and said the conversation he had pertained to a different case, in which he had given a cheque of Rs 11 lakh to Rakesh seven years ago, but was duped by him. Congress spokesperson Aslam Sheikh said he was out of town and had not been able to get in touch with Shiva. Builder Santosh Sawant did not answer mid-day's calls or SMSes. The number allegedly used by Mandvikar to arrange Monday's meeting was switched off.
mid-day had reported in 2010 about a 3,845-sqft plot on LT Road in Borivli West was given away by the government to a housing society for a throwaway price of R5.39 lakh in 2009. This came to a measly R175/sqft, when the going rate in the area was between Rs 8,000 and Rs 10,000/sqft. (Click here or the image below for full story)
The land belonged to the collector and was given to a group of 11 members under the banner, Swami Samarth Cooperative Housing Society Ltd. A family, the Bhandaris, for whom Rakesh Shetty is the legal adviser, occupy a small portion on the land and took the issue to court. The court ordered a stay on the land transaction and the men named in Rakesh's FIR were allegedly trying to settle this.
Harish Mandvikar is said to have masterminded matka king Suresh Bhagat's murder in 2010 in Goa while serving a sentence in another crime in Arthur Road Jail. He was booked under the Arms Act in July 2012 by the crime branch for facilitating arms transactions from his jail cell. He has also been tried under MCOCA and has cases of extortion filed against him.
Deepak Pandey has cases of gang rape, extortion and robbery and murder of an RTO officer against him.
Santosh Sawant is a developer with many alleged political links.
Shiva Shetty, ward 8 corporator, is alleged to have a 20% stake in the disputed property.