In drug case linked to Aryan Khan, govt recommends action against ex NCB officer
Hours after the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) exonerated actor Shah Rukh Khan’s son, Aryan, in the Cordelia drugs raid case, the Centre on Friday recommended action against the agency’s former zonal director, Sameer Wankhede, over his “shoddy investigation” in the case, people familiar with the matter said.
A special investigation team (SIT) of the NCB, which was probing the case, on Friday said it found several irregularities in the raids that were conducted by Wankhede and his team on a Cordelia Cruises yacht on October 2 last year, suggesting misuse of position and non-adherence to rules.
It was on Wankhede’s order that Aryan was arrested without sufficient evidence on October 3. He was released on October 28.
The SIT, under NCB’s deputy director general (DDG) Sanjay Kumar Singh, reinvestigated the case for the past seven months after allegations surfaced that attempts were made to extort money from Aryan.
“Based on the SIT’s report, a reference recommending action against Wankhede has been sent to the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC), his parent cadre,” a senior government official said on condition of anonymity.
Officials at North Block said action is also being taken against the Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officer for allegedly submitting a false caste certificate to secure a job in the civil services under the Scheduled Caste quota, an allegation which was first leveled by Maharashtra minister Nawab Malik in October last year.
Wankhede may face strict disciplinary action, including losing his job or a criminal case, if the allegations against him are found true.
Wankhede refused to comment on the findings of the SIT in the Cordelia drugs raid case.
On Centre’s action against him, he said he was not aware of any such development. “I cannot comment on it, also because I am no longer in NCB,” he said.
An IRS officer belonging to the 2008 batch, Wankhede has had regular run-ins with Bollywood for a long time. He was brought to the NCB “on loan” in August 2020 from the directorate of revenue and intelligence (DRI), which comes under CBIC, and immediately shot to fame during a probe into actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death. He had summoned multiple celebrities, including Deepika Padukone, Shraddha Kapoor, Sara Ali Khan, Rakul Preet Singh, among others in connection with the case.
Wankhede’s team had also arrested Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Nawab Malik’s son-in-law Sameer Khan in a drugs case in January 2021.
While he was posted in the customs department at Mumbai airport in 2011, Wankhede had stopped several celebrities, including singer Mika Singh, for allegedly carrying objectionable items.
After the Indian team won the Cricket world cup that same year, Wankhede had refused to release the original cup in the airport over non-payment of 35 percent duty on it. The team celebrated with a replica of the Cup.
During his posting in the excise department in 2013, the IRS officer had questioned Bollywood personalities such as Anurag Kashyap, Vivek Oberoi, Ram Gopal Verma, among others, in various cases.
He also spent a considerable time in the National Investigation Agency (NIA) before returning to the DRI between 2013 and 2017.
Besides accusing Wankhede of submitting a fake caste certificate for a job, Malik last year had also claimed that the IRS officer owns a family restaurant and bar in Navi Mumbai.
Amid a string of controversies, Wankhede’s tenure with the NCB, which started in 2020, ended on December 31 last year and he was transferred back to the DRI.
He is currently posted in the DRI in a non-operational role.