Updated: October 7, 2021 7:46:02 am
Manish Bhanushali, the man seen in a video footage holding Arbaaz Merchant by the hand and leading him into the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) office in Mumbai on Sunday after he and seven others, including Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan, were detained in a raid on a cruise ship by the central agency, acknowledged on Wednesday that he is a BJP worker and had provided information to the NCB about certain passengers carrying drugs.
Another man, K P Gosavi, was seen similarly gripping Aryan Khan and taking him to the NCB office.
Hours after the NCP alleged that BJP members were part of the NCB raid, Bhanushali acknowledged that he was a member of the BJP.
A resident of Dombivali who claims to have fought elections on a BJP ticket for the Kalyan Dombivli Municipal Corporation polls, Bhanushali said he was accompanying the NCB officials, as he had provided them information about the usage of drugs on the cruise ship.
“I had received information regarding the drug party on the cruise from a friend through WhatsApp on October 1. The friend had overheard someone’s conversation regarding the party. I went to inform the NCB on October 2,” Bhanushali told The Indian Express.
Asked why he was present during the raid, he claimed that he was asked to stay on by NCB officials.
“The NCB already knew about the drug party but as I had more information than NCB officials and was being updated constantly by my friend, they asked me to accompany them,” Bhanushali said.
He claimed that following the raid, everyone who was held on the cruise ship, was taken to the NCB office in Ballard Pier. “I was told to come along as I was a witness and they needed my signatures on certain documents. I went and sat in the vehicle in which the accused were there,” he said.
Asked why he held Merchant’s hand and led him inside the NCB office, Bhanushali said he just held the hand of the person who was next to him as the approach path was narrow.
“I neither knew who was walking next to me nor was I escorting anyone. When we were being taken to the NCB office, the footpath was narrow and I instinctively caught the hand of the person next to me while entering the office,” Bhanushali said.
He acknowledged that he was associated with the BJP. “I am not a vice-president but just a humble worker of the party,” he said. Bhanushali’s Facebook profile, in which he had referred to himself as a BJP vice-president and posted pictures with several senior leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has now been locked.
Gosavi, the other person against whom the NCP has raised objections, can be seen holding Aryan Khan’s hand and leading him into the NCB office.
Maintaining that he does not know Gosavi, Bhanushali said that pictures of Khan and Gosavi together that have been circulated by the NCP were taken inside the NCB office.
Gosavi, as per his Facebook profile which now stands deleted, calls himself a detective staying in Kuala Lumpur. He is also said to be the owner of a job placement firm named KPG Dreamz Solutions. In 2018, Gosavi had been booked by the Pune Police for defrauding a man of Rs 3.09 lakh after promising to help him get a job in Malaysia.
Gosavi was not available for comment.
The NCB, meanwhile, defended its decision to use Gosavi and Bhanushali as panchs. On allegations of one witness being linked to BJP and another having a police record, an official claimed that the NCB did not know the witnesses.
The two were used as panch witnesses after they were found on the “scene of crime”, the official claimed. “I cannot stop an operation and go check if the independent witness has a past record or if he is affiliated to any party,” the official said.
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