Enough and more has been reported about Peter (Pratim) Mukerjea, the suave media tycoon who was so besotted with an HR consultant that he ignored her two marriages and married her within a few months of their courtship. Initially, he appeared to be this old man who had been done in by a young woman but when the Maharashtra government transferred the case to the CBI, Peter sought the help of top troubleshooters in Delhi. By then, Peter Mukerjea had also confessed that he was aware of “a plot to eliminate Sheena” but “did not pay enough notice”.
There was no gainsaying the fact that for a long time after Indrani’s arrest, the death of Sheena Bora had unfortunately been eclipsed. The voyeur was more interested in the multiple marriages of Indrani and some of the statements by her erstwhile friends and colleagues also added fodder to the salacious gossip. Therefore, when Indrani began flip-flopping and changing the course of her narrative, it wasn’t given much credence as it was expected of her. But when Peter Mukerjea was found to be equally devious, there was a sense of shock and rage even amongst some members of the Mumbai police team.
In a private conversation, Rakesh Maria told me that during the interrogation, Peter had said, “I knew there was a plot, something was being planned by Indrani.”
After all, claimed Rakesh Maria, Peter was aware that Sanjeev Khanna had landed in Mumbai and met Indrani for some “special work”. Further, Peter knew fully that sundry cars were being hired by his wife from an agency known to both of them and also the identity of the people who had travelled with her on April 24, 2012.
“But all through, he was in touch with some of Delhi’s top lobbyists, who have a history of success. He desperately wanted to get out of CBI’s grasp,” said a top source in the Indian capital.
Curiously, Peter continued to play a double game with the CBI. To his interrogators, he came across as a man who was most willing to cooperate, and to his friends, as a cuckolded husband who swore never to rest until a chargesheet was led against his wife, Indrani. The troubleshooter-lobbyists, who had several high-profile clients, asked the former television tycoon if he knew the difference between accidental murder and pre-planned murder, and how his duplicity wasn’t helping anyone. They added that they could exert some pressure on the CBI to “go slow” in the case, but in their business, no one ever stood guarantees. Worse, it wasn’t helping anybody that the then CBI chief, Ranjit Sinha was himself embroiled in a controversy and was caught hobnobbing with people the CBI had put behind bars. Among them, film producer and meat exporter Moin Qureishi, involved in an alleged, scandalous hawala deal; some officials of Reliance Communications and Essar group, currently under probe in the billion-dollar 2G scam.
“It will be difficult lobbying for you, and this is a case of an alleged murder,” the lobbyists finally let Peter Mukerjea know.
In late August 2015, no one gave the arrest of forty-three-year-old Shyamvar Pintu Rai under the Indian Arms Act 1959, for possessing a pistol and three live cartridges, much credence. On August 21, little did Indrani Mukerjea know that a lowly member of her personal staff would seal her future forever. However, even after her arrest, it was widely speculated that a powerful corporate group seething over the unscrupulous business dealings of the Mukerjeas during offloading their equity in INX Media, had spilled the beans to Mumbai police.
And there were several other indications that the Sheena Bora murder case was viewed from the prism of “ill-gotten” wealth, as suggested by the Enforcement Directorate in Mumbai, which had tracked several accounts in Singapore operated by Indrani and Peter to park large amounts of cash.
In its report, the CBI told a Mumbai court that the couple had allegedly siphoned off funds to the tune of Rs 900 crore from their company, 9X Media, through a layer of nine companies. “Indrani and Peter had formed various companies during 2006–07 and invested Rs 900 crore in them,” and that money from INX was routed to Sheena Bora’s HSBC account in Singapore. The reports furnished by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs’ Serious Fraud Investigation Office, the Income Tax department, and documents of chartered accountants substantiated the facts, said the agency.
For a considerable period of time, there were two subjects under the close scrutiny of the CBI – a top legal firm that had helped the couple hype the value of INX Media, and an IPS officer who was instrumental in hushing up the case in 2012, when Sheena Bora’s decomposed body was found in Pen taluka. It was this officer, claimed the CBI in a report (quoted by the Press Trust of India and carried widely in newspapers across India on November 27, 2015) who had called RD Shinde, then Superintendent of Police, Raigad district and in charge of Pen police station, instructing him to drop the case. The report further said that RD Shinde then allegedly told Subhash Mirge, an inspector at Pen police station, to hush up the case and not register an FIR for either murder or for a case of accidental death. As a result, the Pen police withheld Sheena’s body samples, which in normal course should have been sent to Sir JJ Hospital in Mumbai. Although the statements of RD Shinde and Subhash Mirge were eventually recorded, no immediate action was taken against them, the CBI informed the court, adding even Peter Mukerjea’s son Rahul, who was in a relationship with Sheena, and had gone to register a missing complaint with Worli and Khar police station was checkmated by Inspector Mirge.
Yet another anomaly which emerged in the case was Peter’s polygraph test conducted by the CBI which established a deep-seated mistrust between him and his spouse.
Sources within the CBI said that his confession was at variance with what he had said in an interview to the Times Now news channel on August 27, 2015, in which he had described his relationship with Indrani as “more than cordial” and that he “trusted her blindly”. The tests, on the other hand revealed that in the previous two years, Peter had lost faith in her; he expressed his growing “dissatisfaction” with Indrani; because she “maintained relations with both her ex-husbands”; and “often kept Peter in the dark”. The last point gained some credence when Indrani’s first husband, Siddhartha Das, in a sensational revelation to CBI officers in September 2015 said that he had been in touch with Indrani till 2012 – the year Sheena was murdered – and had even questioned her about the murder. To which, Indrani – claimed Siddhartha in an interview to the Hindustan Times on September 3, 2015 – had retorted: “Did you even bother all these years to find out about your children (Mikhail and Sheena). They were as good as dead to you. So why bother now?”
Excerpted with permission from Found Dead, Shantanu Guha Ray, Westland Publications.