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Ex-staffer linked to Karan Johar firm claims NCB forced him to implicate director; agency denies

The agency's Deputy DG (South West), Mutha Ashok Jain, refuted the allegation, and said the investigation was being carried out in a “professional manner”.

Written by Sadaf Modak , Mohamed Thaver | Mumbai |
Updated: September 28, 2020 10:28:44 am
Karan Johar, dharma productions, Karan Johar drugs case, Kshitij Prasad, Bollywood drug case, Sushant singh rajput deaths case, indian expressKaran Johar had said that he does not know Prasad personally and that he or Dharma Productions cannot “be made responsible for what people do in their personal lives”. (Express Photo by Dilip Kagda)

A former executive producer of Dharmatic Entertainment, the sister concern of Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions, told a Mumbai court on Sunday that the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) had forced him to falsely implicate Johar and other executives of the film production company in a case of alleged consumption of drugs.

The former Dharmatic Entertainment employee, Kshitij Prasad, was called in by NCB on Friday in connection with its investigation of the alleged “drugs nexus” in Bollywood, and placed under arrest on Saturday.

The agency’s Deputy DG (South West), Mutha Ashok Jain, refuted the allegation, and said the investigation was being carried out in a “professional manner”.

Prasad (30), was part of Dharmatic Entertainment in November 2019. The NCB claimed that a “roll joint believed to be remains of smoked ganja” was seized from his house. The agency told the court on Sunday that according to the statement of another accused in the case, Prasad had made bank and cash payments to the tune of Rs 3,500 each on around a dozen occasions between May and July, for the purchase of ganja.

Prasad’s lawyer Satish Maneshinde said that his client – who was produced by video-conference before the metropolitan magistrate – had informed the court that he had been “harassed and blackmailed” by NCB investigators to make a statement.

Maneshinde said Prasad had told the court that his statement had been recorded by Sameer Wankhede, in-charge of the Mumbai unit of the NCB, “wherein various patently false claims were inserted despite his (Prasad’s) protests”, and the statement was not recorded as per his narration.

Maneshinde claimed that Prasad was not told whether he was being placed under arrest, nor was he permitted to speak to his lawyer. He was, however, told that he would have to stay the night at the NCB office on Friday as his statement was yet to be completed.

“The NCB officers apart from Sameer Wankhede were courteous to Kshitij and provided him with a comfortable sleeping arrangement. The next morning when his statement recording resumed, Kshitij was categorically informed by Sameer Wankhede in the presence of several other officers, that since he was associated with Dharma Productions, they would let him off if he implicated Karan Johar and some others, falsely alleging that they consumed drugs. Kshitij refused to comply with this despite the pressure being mounted on him as he did not know any of these people personally and did not wish to falsely implicate anyone,” Maneshinde said.

Wankhede denied the allegations. “It is routine practice on the part of the accused to make such allegations,” he said.

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NCB Deputy DG Jain said: “The investigation is being carried out in a professional manner and there is no intended target other than what is revealed during the investigation. The allegations (by Prasad) are absolutely untrue.”

Seeking Prasad’s custody, the NCB submitted that arrested accused Ankush Arneja had said in his statement that he had supplied hashish to Prasad through accused Sanket Patel on various occasions. Patel, who was arrested and granted bail, has allegedly told the NCB that he delivered 50 grams of ganja to Prasad outside his residence in Andheri around 12 times between May and July this year. The NCB claimed that it had seized the “remains of smoked ganja” and certain documents and gadgets from Prasad’s home. According to the agency, Prasad is “indirectly connected with accused Anuj Keshwani from whom commercial quantity of narcotics was seized”.

“Therefore, it is necessay to interrogate in deep as to whom he was delivering contraband in Bollywood,” the NCB said in its remand application. NCB also told the court that Prasad was not cooperating with the investigation, and sought his custody until October 5.

In his order granting NCB custody until October 3, Metropolitan Magistrate V J Dongre said that due to the serious nature of the offence, detailed custodial interrogation of the accused is “justifiable to reveal the truth”.

Maneshinde said Prasad had told the court that he had been made to sit on the floor with Wankhede putting his shoe near Prasad’s face, which “traumatised” him. Prasad was “extremely fatigued and shaken” after 48 hours in custody, and requested that he be allowed to speak to a lawyer or a member of his family, Maneshinde said.

“Sameer Wankhede informed him (Prasad) that if he wished to be granted a call, he should sign the statement they had prepared which he could retract later,” Maneshinde said. “Kshitij was unaware of the legalities involved and had never even come across this term ‘retraction of statement’. Sameer Wankhede then informed him that if he did not sign the statement, the pressure would continue to mount and he would not be given access to his family or lawyer. At the end of nearly 50 hours of interrogation, humiliation and torment, Kshitij in his desperation to speak to his lawyer or family, unwillingly and under threats signed the statement.”

In a statement released on Saturday, Johar said he does not know Prasad personally, and that he or Dharma Productions cannot “be made responsible for what people do in their personal lives”. So far, 20 have been arrested in the case including actor Rhea Chakraborty.

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