On Monday, stockbroker Gautam Vora, 34, was arrested for allegedly helping Vijay Palande, a key accused in the doubled murder of Delhi-based businessman Arun Kumar Tikku and consultant Karan Kakkar. But this was not Vora's first brush with the law. In 2010, when his supermodel girlfriend Viveka Babajee killed herself he was nearly implicated in the case.
But on Monday, Vora took things up a notch. This time, he's in the dock for shielding Palande, who was on the run after escaping the clutches of the police in connection with the Arun Tikku murder case in Oshiwara, Mumbai.
After Palande escaped from the police vehicle taking him to the crime branch lockup at Andheri, a Mumbai suburb, he made straight for Churchgate in south Mumbai.
"On the way, he contacted Vora, who has been his friend for a few months. Vora met him at Marine Lines station in his car, then took him to Hotel Godwin in Churchgate," Additional Commissioner of Police (crime) Deven Bharati said.
"He (Vora) had brought a change of clothes, and while Palande showered in the hotel room, Vora waited outside. He then left after Palande changed his clothes."
Bharati also confirmed that Palande was to leave for Thailand the same night, but it is still unclear if Vora helped him with cash and travel tickets. Vora was arrested and produced in the Esplanade court number 37 on the same day.
The police were on Vora's trail the moment they discovered his phone number on model Simran Sood's call log. She was arrest by the Amboli police last week in the Kakkar murder case.
Sood had made several calls to Vora after the Tikku murder came to light on April 7. In between the investigation by the Amboli police, which was probing the Karan Kakkar case, and the time that the crime branch took over the investigations, Palande had admitted to Vora's complicity in shielding him before his abortive escape to Thailand.
Who is Gautam Vora?
Before she killed herself in 2010, supermodel Viveka Babajee left just one hint of her troubled relationship in a page of her diary -- just a line that read, 'U killed me, Gautam Vora'.
Rigorously questioned in connection with the death, the model's rumoured fiancé did concede that things had not been going well between the two, and that he had met her a few hours before she hanged herself in her Bandra home.
He was said to have told her that he was not ready to marry her, which led to a loud altercation, and later, to her suicide. In the absence of a concrete link tying Vora to the abetment of her suicide, police finally let him off the hook.
Vora is a stockbroker and software entrepreneur, and his advice has often been sought by business publications and news channels, especially on high activity days at the Bombay Stock Exchange. He is said to specialise in 'off-market' deals and currently runs ULJK Securities Ltd with his mother.
Though most of his life was spent in Mumbai, he finished his business studies at Indiana University, Bloomington, US. He took over the reins of ULJK in 2010 after his father Khushaldas Vora passed away, and has been running it successfully ever since.
How does Vora know Palande?
Police sources say that Vora had been seeing Simran Sood, co-accused in the Tikku and Kakkar twin murders, for the last year. "Palande came in contact with Vora through Simran. He (Vora) would often accompany her to filmi parties, where he loved being photographed with models and actresses. She also introduced him to several famous women, who he briefly dated. It remains to be seen if the two men had business dealings as well," a police official said.
Another story doing the rounds is that Vora may have been associated with Sood even when he was still seeing Babajee, who was totally besotted with Vora after a brief meeting in Goa.
What's next for Vora?
Police are now trying to find the exact extent of Vora's involvement with the twin murders. "It is a bit strange that a wealthy person like him, normally seen in the company of people belonging to his own social class, would be associated with a noted criminal like Palande, to the extent that he would actively shelter him despite knowing that the man was on the run after a killing," a police official said. Police are also probing the level of his involvement with Sood.
Meanwhile, inspector Sanjay Shinde and constable Amol Deshpande of Mumbai crime branch were suspended for allowing Palande to escape from police custody on April 10.
Image: Stockbroker Gautam Vora was prodcued in court on Monday
Credit: Sahil Salvi/Rediff.com