Monday, May 29, 2023

CBI books Wankhede for seeking bribe to let off Aryan Khan in drugs-on-cruise

The CBI has filed an FIR against former Narcotics Control Bureau officer Sameer Wankhede for allegedly seeking Rs 25 crore bribe for not framing Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan in the drugs-on-cruise case, officials said on Friday.
Aryan Khan was arrested in the alleged drug bust case on the Cordelia cruise ship on October 2, 2021, they said.
A coordinated search operation was launched on Friday at 29 locations in Mumbai, Delhi, Ranchi, Lucknow, Guwahati and Chennai after filing the FIR against the 2008-batch IRS officer Wankhede and four others — then NCB Superintendent Vishwa Vijay Singh, Intelligence Officer Ashish Ranjan and two private persons K P Gosavi and Sanvile D’Souza — in the case, they said.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) booked Wankhede and others for alleged criminal conspiracy (120-B IPC), and threat of extortion (388 IPC) besides provisions pertaining to bribery under the Prevention of Corruption Act on a complaint from the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB).
“It has been alleged that the said officials of the Narcotics Control Bureau of Mumbai Zone, in order to obtain undue advantage from the persons and others in the Case No. 94/2021… registered and investigated under the supervision of then Zonal Director of Mumbai Zone of NCB, had entered into criminal conspiracy with others and allegedly obtained undue advantage in the form of bribes from the alleged accused…”, a CBI spokesperson said.
The probe agency alleged the NCB, Mumbai Zone had received information during October, 2021 related to the consumption and possession of narcotics substances by various individuals on a private cruise ship.
“It has also been alleged that the said persons entered into conspiracy in order to extort an amount of Rs 25 crore (approx) from family members of the alleged accused of the case No. 94/2021 of NCB, Mumbai, by threatening them of the accusation of offences of possession of narcotics substances as per the alleged directions of then zonal director (Wankhede) being the supervisory officer,” he said.
A token amount of Rs 50 lakh as bribe was allegedly obtained in furtherance of this conspiracy by the said persons, he said.
Wankhede and other officers through “improper and dishonest performance” of duty, by “corrupt and illegal means” and “exercise of personal influence” demanded bribe from the suspect in the case registered by the NCB, the CBI FIR has alleged.
The accused officer was at the helm of the Cordelia ship probe till November, 2021 when a Special Investigation Team of the NCB took over the investigation.
Aryan Khan, who was formally arrested by the NCB on October 3, 2021, was granted bail by the Bombay High Court on October 28, 2021 after spending 25 days in jail.
The NCB on May 27, 2022 also filed a 6,000-page charge sheet against 14 accused, giving a clean chit to Aryan Khan.
NCB officials said Aryan Khan and five others were not named in the agency’s charge sheet due to “lack of sufficient evidence”.
Besides the NCB SIT found “grave irregularities” and gaps in the probe, the officials said, adding that the central agency’s first team that arrested Aryan did not follow rules like mandatory medical test of accused, video recording of the raids and corroborate evidence for WhatsApp chats.
NCB Director General S N Pradhan had told reporters in Delhi that there were “shortcomings” in the investigation and WhatsApp chat of the accused had no “physical corroborative evidence” as required to prove the charges in the court.
Wankhede, who headed the Narcotics Control Bureau Zonal Unit in Mumbai at the time of Aryan Khan’s arrest, was transferred to the DG Taxpayer Service Directorate in Chennai in May last year.
The much hyped case took a twist when an ‘independent witness’ had claimed in 2021 that Rs 25 crore was demanded by an NCB official and other persons, including a witness Gosavi, to let off Aryan Khan.
Prabhakar Sail, the ‘independent witness’, now deceased, had told media persons that he had overheard Gosavi telling D’Souza over the phone about the demand of Rs 25 crore after Aryan Khan was brought to the NCB office after the October 2 raid.
He also claimed NCB officials had asked him to sign nine to ten blank papers.
However, a senior NCB official had denied the allegations, terming them as “completely false and malicious”.


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