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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Cruise ship case: Court denies Wankhede, NCB pleas for blanket order on extortion claim

On Monday night, Wankhede flew to Delhi. He told mediapersons that he had not been “summoned” but was in the Capital for some other reason.

Written by Sadaf Modak | Mumbai |
Updated: October 26, 2021 8:25:22 am
Wankhede’s application states that he has perused a copy of the affidavit filed by Prabhakar Sail, one of the witnesses in the case. (Express Photo by Ganesh Shirsekar)

A special NDPS court here Monday refused to pass a blanket order barring authorities from taking cognizance of an affidavit of an independent witness in the alleged drugs case involving Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan. In the affidavit filed Sunday, the witness, Prabhakar Sail, had accused Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) Mumbai Zonal Director Sameer Wankhede and others of trying to extort money from Khan in the case.

The NCB filed an application and Wankhede separately filed an affidavit before Special Judge V V Patil, designated to hear cases related to the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, seeking that no cognizance be taken of Sail’s affidavit. They argued that Sail’s allegations were an attempt to scuttle the investigation into the case. In its affidavit, the NCB also sought orders to ensure there was no tampering with the evidence or investigation.

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“Considering the nature of the relief claimed in the applications, no such blanket orders can be passed. It is for the concerned court or authority to pass appropriate order at the relevant stage,” the court said.

The NCB has initiated a vigilance inquiry against Wankhede on the allegations by Sail. A three-member team from the central body is likely to come to Mumbai Tuesday to begin the inquiry. On Monday night, Wankhede flew to Delhi. He told mediapersons that he had not been “summoned” but was in the Capital for some other reason.

The Chief Vigilance Officer of the NCB, Deputy DG Gyanendra Singh, will be conducting the inquiry. Asked if Wankhede will continue to oversee the probe in the alleged drug seizure, Singh told The Indian Express the decision in the matter will be taken by the NCB Director General.

In its order rejecting the NCB and Wankhede’s pleas, the NDPS court noted that the matter was before the Bombay High Court, which is scheduled to hear the bail pleas of Aryan and co-accused Munmun Dhamecha Tuesday. “Therefore, no such orders can be passed by the court… Hence, the applications are disposed of,” Judge Patil said.

Sail claimed Sunday that Rs 25 crore was demanded by an official of the NCB and other persons, including absconding witness K P Gosavi, to let off Aryan in the case. He said he had overheard Gosavi, his employer, telling one ‘Sam D’Souza’ over the phone — after Aryan had been detained — about a demand for Rs 25 crore, and “to settle at Rs 18 crore as they have to give Rs 8 crore to Sameer Wankhede”.

Gosavi, who is wanted in several cheating cases and has been missing since questions were raised about his role in Aryan’s arrest, spoke to some news channels Monday where he denied the allegations made by Sail. Asked about the video where he is seen holding a phone so that Aryan could speak into it in the lock-up, Gosavi said he did so as the 23-year-old did not have a phone and wanted to talk to his parents and manager.

Gosavi claimed he did not know Wankhede before the raid on the night of October 2. He said he had gone into hiding as he feared a threat to his life and was on his way to surrender somewhere outside Maharashtra.

In his affidavit, Wankhede, who was in court on Monday, claimed he was under a “lurking threat of arrest, as it does not suit some vested interests”, due to his “honest and impartial investigation”.

In its affidavit, the NCB called the allegations against Wankhede and other officers “completely false, misleading and mischievous and an attempt to malign and tarnish the image of an independent agency like the NCB”. It said its officers, including Wankhede, have an impeccable service record, and were working tirelessly towards making Mumbai a drug-free city.

On Monday, Sail met Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Milind Bharambe seeking security. An official said the Mumbai Police had already provided security to Sail.

Actor Ananya Pandey, who is being questioned by the NCB in relation to the Aryan case, on Monday failed to appear before it saying she was unwell.

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