The Narcotics Control Bureau Zonal Director Sameer Wankhede, who was leading the Aryan Khan drugs case probe has been removed from the investigation following allegations of bribery. According to reports, Wankhede was removed after being linked to an extortion bid of Rs 25 crore by some NCB officials, including Wankhede, for letting off accused Aryan Khan, son of actor Shah Rukh Khan, in the drugs case.
The action has been taken on "administrative grounds", and as these six have "wider and inter-state ramifications", they have been transferred to the operations unit in Delhi, NCB Deputy Director General (north-west region) Mutha Ashok Jain said.
The NCB issued a statement to say that the six cases are being "taken over" by the special investigation team (SIT) of officers from the Delhi operations unit as they have "national and international ramifications and in order to conduct a deeper investigation to find out forward and backward linkages."
"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.".
What are the allegations against Wankhede?
The NCB had arrested Aryan Khan and at least 19 others in the drugs on cruise case on the intervening night of October 2-3 and Wankhede is facing a departmental vigilance probe after an independent witness in the case alleged extortion bid by those involved.
Previously, Prabhakar Sail, one of the witnesses in the Aryan Khan drugs-on-cruise case, accused Wankhede of receiving a Rs 8 crore pay-off.
Following Wankhede's removal, the charge of the high profile drugs probe will be given over to a special investigation team (SIT) under the leadership of senior police officer Sanjay Singh.
The news came the same day as Aryan Khan, son of Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan, made his first appearance with the NCB. The former appeared before the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) in Mumbai to mark his weekly presence before the anti-drug agency in connection with the cruise ship drugs case.
"It is reiterated that the NCB functions across India as a single integrated agency," the statement said.
Who will take over the case now?
A team from the Delhi NCB operations will camp in Mumbai to take the probe in these cases forward, according to reports.
The agency’s Deputy DG, South-Western Region, Mutha Ashok Jain told reporters in Mumbai that this is an administrative decision and a team of Delhi NCB is arriving in Mumbai on Saturday to probe the six cases.
The NCB operations unit has a pan-India jurisdiction and it is currently headed by DDG Sanjay Kumar Singh. He is an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer of the 1996 batch Odisha cadre.
What are Nawab Malik's accusations against Wankhede?
Maharashtra minister Nawab Malik has launched a tired against Wankhede, accusing of several charges including the forging of documents, deception about his religion, and celebrity extortion for money and arrests on fake charges.
Sameer Khan, the son-in-law of Malik was arrested in January in connection to a drugs case along with two others. He received bail last month.
Wankhede had been facing constant attacks from Nawab Malik in the past few days for his connection to the arrest, so much so that a local organisation on Wednesday came out in support of the NCB Zonal Director.
Hailing Wankhede's fight against drugs, members of the Shri Shiv Pratishthan Yuva Hindustan gathered outside the NCB zonal office in the morning holding placards and banners with messages in his support.
Soon after news of Wankhede's removal broke, the NCB officer responded by saying he had petitioned to be shifted from the case and was not, in fact, removed on the basis of allegations.
"I've not been removed from the investigation. It was my writ petition in court that the matter be probed by a central agency," NDTV quoted Wankhede as saying. "So Aryan Khan case and Sameer Khan case are being probed by Delhi NCB's SIT," he added, stating that the move was the result of cooperation between Delhi and Mumbai.
(With PTI inputs)