Bookie who pointed out J Dey to shooters dies

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Vinod Asrani was accused of having pointed out mid-day’s Editor (Investigations) J Dey to one of the shooters four days before the journalist was shot dead in Powai on June 2011

Vinod Asrani aka Vinod Chembur aka Vinod Sindhi, a key accused in the J Dey murder case, died in Global Hospital in Parel in the wee hours of yesterday. Asrani, who had allegedly helped the shooters identify Dey, was a close aide of gangster Chhota Rajan and had risen from being a public telephone booth operator to a bookie and well-known builder in the Chembur area.

Asrani was suffering from cirrhosis of the liver and had got permission from the high court to undergo a liver transplant in UK, but could not make the trip, so he had applied again for permission to go to Singapore, and the court was supposed to hear the matter on Friday, the same day that he died.

Case file
mid-day’s Investigations Editor Jyotirmoy Dey, popularly known as J Dey, was shot in Powai on June 11, 2011. The police had subsequently arrested eleven accused, including journalist Jigna Vora, of which Vora, Paulson Joseph and Deepak Sisodia are now out on bail.
The police claim that Vora had instigated Rajan to kill Dey, Sisodia had supplied the bullets to the shooters and Joseph had provided SIM cards to them so that they could stay in touch with Rajan. The police are still on the lookout for Rajan and his aide, Nayan Singh, a resident of Shimla, in the case.

On June 7, Asrani had called J Dey for a discussion at Uma bar in Mulund, where he had pointed the journalist out to one of the shooters, Satish Kalya, who was sitting on a table adjacent to theirs. Rajan allegedly suspected that J Dey was passing information about him to his rival, Chhota Shakeel.

Shrewd operator
Police sources said Asrani was a shrewd operator and had, in December 2005, been arrested, along with Chhota Rajan’s wife Sujata Nikhalje and some accomplices, under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act. Crime Branch sources said that Asrani was aiding Rajan in legitimising the money earned from extortion.

Asrani facilitated the appropriation of funds extorted from builders in Tilak Nagar, Chembur and other areas at the behest of Pradip Madgaonkar alias Bandya Mama and made sure that the money found its way into the accounts of Rajan’s family members. He also got several tenders with Rajan’s help.

“He was a big bookie, who had turned into a big builder. Asrani had most of his projects in the Navi Mumbai and Chembur areas. One of his most famous housing projects is the Safal Twins in Chembur. The 20-storey towers were also home to Asrani, who had kept the entire first-floor of one of the high-rises for himself,” said a police official.

Case update
Special MCOCA Judge A L Pansare is expected to frame charges in the case, after which it will head to the trial stage.

Hospital speak
While sources confirmed that Asrani breathed his last around 9.30 am due to heart and liver failure, the hospital refused to comment citing patient confidentiality. A spokesperson from Global Hospitals, Mumbai, said, “Due to reasons of patient confidentiality, we won’t be able to comment on the matter.”

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