Odishatv Bureau

Bhubaneswar: Mahimananda Mishra, the mastermind of the murder of General Manager of Seaways Shipping and Logistics Limited (SSLL) Mahendra Swain, was detained by Thailand police at Bangkok Immigration Centre after two months on the run since registration of the case.

Mishra's close aide and the key conspirator of the crime Basant Bal was also held up along with him. The duo will be deported to India today and will be arrested formally after reaching Odisha, DGP KB Singh said at a press conference on Sunday, hours after a Thailand English Daily- ‘Bangkok Post’-reported the news of Mishra’s arrest.

A team of Odisha police is on the way to Bangkok to liaison with Thailand police and other agencies for further action, a statement issued by the DGP said.

One of the richest businessmen of Odisha, Mishra had masterminded to gun down the top executive of the Hyderabad based SSLL by help of contract criminals over an alleged business rivalry between SSLL and Mishra's Odisha Stevedores Limited (OSL).

As many as 12 agencies helped the investigating team to arrest the duo. "This is probably first ever international mission for Odisha Police. Odisha police is thankful to following department/agencies for their cooperation at various levels directly or indirectly", said DGP through a statement.

The agencies which helped Odisha police are: 1. Jharkhand police 2.West Bengal Police 3. Delhi Police 4. Haryana Police 5. Punjab Police 6. Chandigadh police 7. Nepal Police 8. Thailand Police 9. Intelligence Bureau 10. CBI 11. Enforcement Directorate 12. Airport Authority of India.

Police had issued look-out notice and sent the Red Corner notice to CBI-INTERPOL against the duo so that they can’t escape the country, the DGP said through a statement. Police teams travelled various places of Odisha, West Bengal, Haryana, Punjab, Delhi and Jharkhand during the course of investigation to trace them, he added.

Mishra used to stay mostly in luxurious five star hotels at various places in his fugitive period like New Delhi, Gudgano, Amritsar, Chandigadh, Bhimdutta (Indo-Nepal Border), Kathmandu and Bangkok. He tried hard to escape from India but could not because of the timely Look out circular. Lastly he chose to escape Nepal as there is open border and no need of passport and visa and later escaped to Bangkok, the statement pointed out.

The police had earlier arrested seven persons in the heinous crime including the key accused.

Arrested accused persons are:

1. Rakesh Choubey: He is from Sonari, Jamshedpur, Jharkhand. He is the key accused who had received Rs 12 lakh cash advance from OSL in September 2016 to execute crime. However, final amount could be very high, which is yet to be ascertained. Choubey along with his associate criminals killed Swain on 26th October, 2016. Choubey was doing such works for money as well as favor like petty stevedoring/transportation/contract work from Mahima Mishra and his associates. He also used to travel in the Mahima Mishra/OSL’s private aero plane

2. Riyasat Hussain alias Riyaz- from Chakradharpur, Jharkhand. He was the shooter and bomber and engaged by Choubey and his associates.

3. Mohammad Shamim is from Chakradharpur, Jharkhand. He was the bomb manufacturing expert engaged by Choubey.

4. Manoj Gochhayat is from Cuttack. He was the shooter, carrier, helper, local guide engaged by Choubey and his associates.

5. Shiba is from Cuttack. He used to arrange auto, vehicle and carrier etc.

6. Bapi Sarkhel: He was involved at conspiracy level. He gives shelter to criminals, local guidance to Rakesh Chobey. He was a frequent users of Mahima Mishra's aeroplane. His service as union leaders was utilized by Mahima to blackmail port/district administration in the name of strike, hartal, paralyzing the Paradeep industrial hub etc.

7. Sushant Sethy: He was in the loop of entire incident, a close aide of Mahima who arranged everything post incident for Mahima like shelter, five star hotels, air tickets, foreign bookings etc

The police sources said Jamshedpur, Kolkata and Cuttack were the hub of entire conspiracy/planning. Though execution part was done in the Paradeep, Phulnakra and Sangam theatre area in Cuttack were some of the important places of the conspiracy.

During the course of investigation, police seized the hand written letter of Mahendra Swain in which he strongly mentioned about life threat from Mahima Mishra and his aide Basant Bal. The letter was sent to GEQD (Hand writing bureau) and the signature was found to be matching with the deceased, DGP Singh maintained.

Some other seized items are:

1. Three bikes and one auto used in this crime: two of the bikes are stolen. CBZ extreme, Yamaha FZ and Hero Honda glamour.

2. Three sophisticated pistols along with around 50 ammunitions.

3. Eight bottles along with gun powder and other bomb making materials.

4. Some photographs in which the accused Rakesh Choubey can be seen using hospitality and aero plane of OSL/Mahima Mishra.

5. A fake aadhar card having address of dorondo Ranchi, Jamshedpur.

6. Bank account having around Rs 5 crore of the accused persons and OSL, which has been frozen.

Mahima's Crime Record

1. Mahima Mishra and Basant Kumar Bal was also accused in the murder case of one union leader Bichitranad Mallick in 1998 in Paradeep.

2. Mishra was also involved in a kidnapping case in 1995 in Paradeep.

3. He is also involved in an attempt to murder case in colliery police station, Talcher, Angul in 2011. That was also a supari case arising related to contract awarding dispute. The investigation of this case is on. Police has moved for cancellation of the anticipatory bail granted to Mishra.

4. His role in the killing of one Arun Bhatt under Sadar PS in Cuttack UPD in 2013 near DPS Kalinga arising out of a land grabbing case is under scrutiny. The complainant of this case was also attacked subsequently.

Brief background of OSL-SSLL rivalry and Swain’s murder

Odisha Stevedores Limited (OSL) and its associate companies have been enjoying the monopoly over the stevedoring business of the Paradeep port for decades. Mahima Mishra is the owner/managing director of this company. He also heads the Paradeep Port Stevedores Association (PPSA), which is basically a group of his supporter/associate companies. Of late, this monopoly was challenged by another new association namely “Utkal Stevedores Association”. Seaways shipping company is the member of this new group which emerged as prime challenger to the old dominant company i.e. OSL. This challenge was not liked by OSL and its chairman Mahima Mishra. He and his aides started giving threat to Mahendra Swain who was heading the seaways company at Paradeep. Mahima Mishra and OSL tried other tactics like threaten to organize the mass strike in port area, closure of port using his staff and associates to blackmail the port and district authorities.

The murder was first conceptualized in September 2015 itself between Mahima and Rakesh Choubey, during the port strike/closure (related to stevedoring issues: seaways getting contract from JSPL) however things were not pursued by Mishra as ultimately OSL and their associates could get the upper hand by blackmailing the port and district administration in the name of strike, bandh, paralysing port activities.

However, the issue cropped up again in August-September 2016 after the seaways again got the contract from SAIL (Seaways had quoted price of Rs 103 per ton against the 143 of OSL for stevedoring). Mahima and his associates tried hard but could not paralyze the port, but failed due to adequate arrangement made by district administration and police authorities. This frustrated them and they decided to eliminate Swain to send a chilling message that he can go to any extent to safeguard his monopoly over stevedoring business at Paradeep.