BOLLYWOOD ACTOR Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan (23) was among eight persons arrested in Mumbai Sunday by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) in connection with an alleged drugs bust on a cruise ship the previous evening.
Three of those arrested, including Khan and two others identified as Arbaaz Merchant and Munmun Dhamecha, were produced before a local court and sent to NCB custody till Monday. The other five will be produced in court Monday.
The three in custody have been charged under sections 8C, 20B, 27 and 35 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act related to charges of possession, consumption and sale of illegal substances identified under the law, an official said. The Special Public Prosecutor and lawyers for the accused said the charges are available.
The central agency said it was investigating “suspicious transactions constituting offences” under the Act. It said the total recovery in this case was 13 grams of cocaine, 5 grams of mephedrone, 22 pills of MDMA (Ecstasy) — all categorised as “intermediate quantities” — and 21 grams of charas, which falls in the category of “small quantity”.
The recovery also included Rs 1.33 lakh in cash, it said.
NCB sources told The Indian Express that “some of the accused had concealed narcotics in specially sewn pockets in their clothes to get it on board”. They said more operations linked to the alleged bust were on in various parts of Mumbai, and that “one more suspect has been intercepted”.
Asked if any Bollywood personality was suspected to be involved and if the agency was looking at the film industry, NCB DG S N Pradhan said: “The investigation is still unfolding. We are looking at all angles in the case. We will be able to provide details once we get evidence.”
In court, the NCB sought custody of the three for two days since it “wants to question them further in connection with others being investigated and raids being conducted”. Special Public Prosecutor Advait Sethna said that while the offences are bailable, the NCB was seeking “reasonable custody” till October 5.
Khan’s lawyer, Satish Maneshinde, submitted that there was no possession or consumption alleged against the 23-year-old and that he wanted to press for bail. Maneshinde said he was “willing to settle” with the NCB being given one-day custody and that he would file for bail Monday. Lawyer Sartaj Shaikh, representing the other two, said the NCB had not clarified from whom the alleged recovery of drugs was made.
Aryan Khan is the eldest of Shah Rukh and Gauri Khan’s three children and a graduate from the School of Cinematic Arts in the University of Southern California.
The alleged drugs bust took place during a raid conducted by 22 NCB officials on the cruise ship Cordelia that, the cruise company said, was chartered by a Delhi-based event company “for a private event”. The event company, identified as Namas’cray Experiences Pvt Ltd, did not respond to queries from The Indian Express.
According to the ship’s owner, there were around 1,000 persons on board, and the rate of an entry ticket for the event ranged from over Rs 60,000 to Rs 5.5 lakh per person.
NCB officials said the raid by officers posing as passengers in the ship, which was to depart from the International Cruise Terminal at Ballard Pier in South Mumbai at 4 pm, was based on a tip-off from an accused arrested in another case.
According to officials, the ship was about to leave when some of the accused were found using narcotics following which the eight were detained and taken to the NCB office for questioning. Their luggage was also seized, and the ship’s captain asked to keep the vessel anchored, officials said.
A person onboard the ship told The Indian Express that the vessel finally left the terminal around 5 am Sunday.
Jurgen Bailom, CEO of Cordelia Cruises, said in a statement that the company “is in no way, directly or indirectly, connected to this incident”. “Cordelia Cruises had chartered its ship for a private event to a Delhi based event management company,” the statement said.
“We, at Cordelia Cruises, condemn all acts such as these and will strictly refrain from letting our ship out for similar events in the future. Nonetheless, Cordelia Cruises is extending our full support and cooperating with the authorities,” it said.
The event titled “Cray’Ark” was to be held on October 2-3, and was advertised online and on hoardings put up in Mumbai as a cruise for the Arabian Sea. The “event details” on some of the advertisements called it “an exclusive cruise taking you on a musical voyage. Experience the crazy in style on Cordelia, India’s largest and premium cruise liner”.
Officials said that on Saturday several persons waiting to board the ship at the terminal were told that the event had been overbooked and turned away.
A 29-year-old old businessman from Indore, who had travelled to Mumbai Friday, said he was unable to board the ship as the organisers failed to give him a boarding pass. “There was total miscommunication on the part of the organisers. I spent close to Rs 1 lakh for the cruise, and made the booking on an app 10 days in advance. But they kept saying there was an NCB raid,” the businessman said. —(With ENS in Delhi)