On Saturday, the Enforcement Directorate registered a money laundering case into Sameer Wankhede, the former Mumbai Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) zonal director. This action was prompted by the registration of a CBI FIR, which alleges a demand for a Rs 25-crore bribe from superstar Shah Rukh Khan's family to refrain from implicating his son in a drugs case, according to official sources cited by the news agency PTI.
The central agency has booked the case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), they said.
The financial crimes probe agency registered the case against Wankhede, an Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officer, a few days back based on the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) first information report (FIR) filed in May last year.
He is likely to be soon summoned for questioning in the matter by the ED.
Officials cited above stated that upon learning about the Enforcement Directorate filing a case against him, Sameer Wankhede promptly approached the high court, requesting that no coercive measures be taken against him.
The high court has already granted him relief from coercive action in the CBI case.
The CBI filed a First Information Report (FIR) on May 11, 2023, in which Sameer Wankhede, former NCB SP Vishwa Vijay Singh, intelligence officer Ashish Ranjan, and two private individuals – Kiran Gosavi and Sanville D’Souza – are named as accused. The FIR alleges that a demand for ₹25 crore was made from Shah Rukh Khan in exchange for refraining from implicating his son, Aryan, in the October 2021 Cordelia drug case. Subsequently, they allegedly reduced the bribe demand to ₹18 crore.
CBI has already questioned Wankhede and other accused persons in the case. The Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officer has refuted the charges against him, asserting that the CBI's actions stem from a "vendetta" orchestrated by certain NCB officers.
Aryan Khan was arrested on October 3, 2021, a day after the controversial raid on Cordelia cruise in Mumbai. A special investigation team (SIT) formed by the NCB gave a clean chit to Aryan Khan on May 27 last year saying he was not part of any larger drug-dealing racket as alleged by Wankhede.
An internal investigation conducted by the NCB revealed that the names of Aryan Khan and Arbaaz Merchant were added at the eleventh hour in the agency's "information note." Additionally, Wankhede's team failed to adhere to proper procedures, including inadequate documentation of phone seizures and the recording of statements, as revealed by the investigation.
In an affidavit submitted to the Bombay High Court, the NCB argued that Sameer Wankhede cannot cite his conversations with actor Shah Rukh Khan as evidence of his integrity, as he maintained these chats in a "secret" manner.
“Moreover, it is pertinent to note that there was no reason for Wankhede to have continued such chats with Shah Rukh Khan without informing his superior officers,” the NCB said. These chats are currently being analyzed by the CBI as part of its probe against the officer.
Image source: The Hindu