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Its Mumbai unit under fire, NCB puts Aryan case under Delhi SIT

Other cases transferred include one related to son-in-law of Nawab Malik who has been critical of Wankhede.

Written by Mohamed Thaver | Mumbai |
Updated: November 6, 2021 7:09:48 am
NCB Zonal Director Sameer Wankhede. (Express photo by Ganesh Shirsekar)

The Narcotics Control Bureau Friday transferred six cases, including the alleged Cordelia drug bust case in which actor Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan was arrested, from its Mumbai Zonal Unit director Sameer Wankhede to a Special Investigation Team comprising officers from the operations branch at the NCB headquarters in New Delhi.

At the centre of a storm ever since Aryan Khan’s arrest on October 2, followed by questions on the credentials of witnesses in the case and serious allegations levelled against him by NCP leader and Maharashtra minister Nawab Malik, Wankhede told The Indian Express: “In my writ petition before the Bombay High Court, I had asked for these cases to be probed by a central agency. So it is not that I have been removed from the cases or have been transferred anywhere. I am still the Mumbai unit director.”

 

His petition, however, makes no mention of these cases, but raises his demand for a probe by a Central agency into allegations of corruption against him.

Among the cases taken away from Wankhede is the one involving Malik’s son-in-law Sameer Khan who is currently on bail in a narcotics case. Also transferred to the SIT is a case involving actor Armaan Kohli.

A source said the SIT will be reaching Mumbai Saturday to collect the paperwork and begin probing these cases.

In a statement, NCB Deputy Director General (Operations) S K Singh said: “A Special Investigation Team (SIT) comprising officers from Operations Branch of Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) Headquarters has been constituted by the Director General, NCB to take over a total of 06 cases from NCB Mumbai Zonal Unit which have national and international ramifications, in order to conduct deeper investigation to find out forward and backward linkages.”

Explained

Bid to undo damage

While Wankhede and NCB are at pains to underline that no officer has been removed from these cases, it is clear that the NCB headquarters has taken away the cases from its Mumbai zonal chief in the wake of serious allegations against him and questions on the credibility of witnesses. What the SIT does next will point to the NCB approach to the cases.

“No officer or officers have been removed from their present roles and they will continue to assist the Operations Branch investigation as required until any specific orders are issued to the contrary. It is reiterated that the NCB functions across India as a single integrated agency,” Singh said.

NCB Deputy Director General Mutha Ashok Jain said the cases were transferred due to “administrative reasons”. He did not comment when he was asked if the transfer of cases were linked to allegations made against the NCB.

Nawab Malik had raised serious questions about the due process followed by Wankhede in the Cordelia cruise ship raid as well as 25 other cases, and had accused Wankhede of framing people by “foisting fake cases”.

Following the transfer of the six cases, Malik, in a Twitter post, said: “Sameer Wankhede removed from 5 cases including the Aryan Khan case. There are 26 cases in all that need to be probed. This is just the beginning… a lot more has to be done to clean this system and we will do it.”

In the Cordelia case, the NCB arrested 20 people including Aryan Khan. He and 13 others are currently out on bail.

In the Sameer Khan case, the NCB has already filed a chargesheet and the case will soon be up for trial. The NCB is yet to file a chargesheet in the Armaan Kohli case.

The NCB did not provide details of the three other cases transferred to the SIT.

On October 6, four days after Aryan Khan was arrested and eight days after his own son-in-law was granted bail, Malik held a press conference where he levelled serious allegations against Wankhede.

This would be the first of his many press conferences and social media updates against Wankhede.

In his first press conference, Malik said panch witness Manish Bhanushali was a BJP member while K P Gosavi, another witness, had at least four cases of cheating registered against him. Malik alleged that Wankhede’s target was Aryan and that he had allowed others on board the ship to go.

Malik also raised questions on 26 cases probed by the NCB from the time Wankhede took over as Mumbai zonal director in September 2020, and alleged that drugs were planted in some cases.

He questioned his links with witnesses in drug cases, his foreign travel and accused him of hiding his religion to gain the benefit of reservation for securing a Central government job.

He alleged that Wankhede along with his sister were involved in a racket targeting Bollywood.

Soon after the allegations were made, a vigilance inquiry was ordered against Wankhede. A vigilance team from the NCB came to Mumbai and recorded his statement and that of seven others.

The Mumbai police too are conducting an inquiry into allegations made by a witness, Prabhakar Sail, that Gosavi had taken money in the Aryan Khan case.

Wankhede responded to these allegations by saying Malik had a personal grudge against him ever since his son-in-law was arrested in a narcotics case.

Wankhede approached the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, alleging harassment by Malik.

Posted with the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), he was “loaned” to the Mumbai NCB in the wake of the Sushant Singh Rajput case registered by the NCB in September 2020. Wankhede had arrested actor Rhea Chakraborty, her brother Showik along with 31 others in the case.

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