Mumbai/New Delhi: The NCB has ordered a vigilance inquiry into the claims made by a witness in the cruise drugs case of an extortion bid of Rs 25 crore by some agency officials. Among those are NCB’s Mumbai zonal director Sameer Wankhede, and others. The extortion bid was for letting off accused Aryan Khan, son of actor Shah Rukh Khan. Sameer Wankhede, the under-fire IRS officer has also come under fresh attack Monday from Maharashtra minister Nawab Malik.
On legal front, Wankhede, who the NCB asserted has an impeccable service record, failed to get any relief related to an affidavit on the sensational extortion claims made by the independent witness, Prabhakar Sail. The special court said it cannot pass a blanket order barring courts from taking cognizance of the document. Sail has been provided police protection by the Maharashtra government after he claimed threat to his life.
The NCB vigilance inquiry will be conducted by Gyaneshwar Singh, the agency’s deputy director general (DDG) of northern region. The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) and Wankhede had earlier in the day filed two separate affidavits before the special court, designated to hear cases related to the Narcotics Drugs Psychotropic Substances (MDPS) Act, against the allegations of extortion attempt levelled against them.
The affidavits had sought the court to pass an order saying no court should take cognizance of the affidavit prepared by Sail, who has alleged that Wankhede and others had attempted to extort money from Shah Rukh Khan to let off his son in the drugs case.
In a related development, Bollywood actor Ananya Panday failed to appear before the NCB on Monday for questioning in connection with her alleged WhatsApp chats with Aryan Khan (23), arrested in the drugs-on-cruise case, an official said. Panday was questioned by the NCB for two days last week and was called again. She was likely to appear before the anti-drugs agency around 11.00am Monday, but did not turn up for the third round of questioning, the official said.
The central agency, in its affidavit, came out in support of Wankhede, saying ‘It is emphatically stated that the NCB, as an organisation and/or its officers, the zonal director, who has an impeccable service record, replete with honesty and integrity, has no interest whatsoever as falsely alleged in the purported affidavit (of the witness)’.
As the NCB resolutely backed its officer, there was no let up in attack by Malik, a senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and Cabinet Minister in the Shiv Sena-led MVA government, who accused Wankhede of forging documents, a claim denied by him. Talking to a news channel in Nanded, Malik also claimed Wankhede is a Muslim by birth. “Wankhede’s name is ‘Sameer Dawood Wankhede’, and he is a Muslim by birth. I have published his birth certificate (online). I had to try hard to find it…He got the IRS job on bogus certificate…I shall reveal more such acts of his ‘bogusgiri’,” Malik said.
Malik also alleged that by ‘hiding” his religion, he (Wankhede) obtained fake documents and through this, the right of a backward class candidate was snatched. Malik claimed the 2008-batch Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officer used forged documents, including his birth certificate. Malik tweeted a photo of the purported certificate, saying “Sameer Dawood Wankhede ka yahan se shuru hua furjiwada. (Sameer Dawood Wankhede’s document forging started from here).”
The NCB zonal director slammed the minister, saying his action was defamatory in nature and an invasion of his family’s privacy. Wankhede added that there has been personal vendetta against him and his family members. “The series of acts of the minister over the past few days have put me and my family under tremendous mental and emotional pressure,” Wankhede said in a statement.
Wankhede, in his affidavit submitted to the court, refuted the allegations levelled against him, and claimed he was under a ‘lurking threat of arrest as it does not suit some vested interests for conducting an honest and impartial investigation’.
Another Maharashtra minister Jayant Patil said it seems Wankhede had shown himself as a candidate from a ‘backward community’ to join government service and the state government will take appropriate steps regarding it. Patil said in neighbouring district of Thane. “Sameer Wankhede seems to have joined the Union government job by claiming to be from backward class. This is a serious matter and state government will take appropriate steps regarding the same,” Patil said.
“The affidavit of Prabhakar Sail is shocking. It appears to be a conspiracy to defame Maharashtra and Mumbai. The videos of arrests (in cruise drugs case) show BJP workers assisting the NCB and helping it take Aryan Khan in custody. This entire conspiracy has one aim – to bring down the MVA government in Maharashtra. Many facts in this case have been brought out by minister Nawab Malik. He presented solid proof,” asserted Patil.
Maharashtra Home Minister Dilip Walse Patil, speaking to reporters in Mumbai said, “Prabhakar Sail has been given police protection. However, as I have not met Nawab Malik yet, I cannot comment on what he had indicated earlier.”
Sail visited the Mumbai police commissioner’s office Monday morning and met Joint Commissioner of Police (crime) Milind Bharambhe, an official said. He later approached the Sahar police in suburban Mumbai, seeking security whenever he comes to meet his wife, children and mother-in-law, who live in the Sahar village here, officials said.
Speaking to reporters in Mumbai, Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut claimed that a person named Sam D’Souza, seen in some pictures related to the arrest of Aryan, was the ‘biggest money laundering player in Mumbai’.
NCB officials said the inquiry will look at all aspects of the claims made by Sail and will also record the version of Wankhede and other officers of the Mumbai zonal unit involved in the cruise drugs case. The inquiry team may also question Sail, they said. A three-member team led by Gyaneshwar may travel to Mumbai for ‘recording the evidence and taking submissions’ in this case. The report of the inquiry will be submitted to the NCB DG.
“We are a professional organisation and we are open for inquiry against any allegation against our staffers. The inquiry will be transparent and fair,” Gyaneshwar said in New Delhi. Asked if Wankhede will continue to probe the cruise case till this inquiry goes on, Gyaneshwar said the question was ‘premature and we will take a call as the inquiry progresses, and evidence is gathered’.