ED books Wankhede on graft charges

| | mumbai
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ED books Wankhede on graft charges

Sunday, 11 February 2024 | TN RAGHUNATHA | mumbai

Sameer Wankhede, a 2008-batch IRS officer, and two other NCB officers will soon be summoned by the ED for questioning in the money laundering case. 

Having found himself in the dock, Wankhede, who had led the investigations in the cruise ship drug bust case as the then NCB’s Mumbai’s Zonal director,  moved the Bombay High Court seeking  quashing of the money laundering case registered against him by the ED in 2021 mid-sea drug bust case. Wankhede’s petition is likely to be heard by a HC division bench on February 15.

The money laundering case registered by the ED is based on an Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) against him on the basis of an FIR registered by the CBI in May 2023. On his part, Wankhede chose not to comment on Saturday’s development by saying, “Since the matter is subjudice, I do not intend to comment further.”

“I will give the appropriate reply in the court at the appropriate time. I reiterate that I have full faith in the Indian judiciary. Satyamev Jayate,” Wankhede said.

Last year, the CBI booked Wankhede for allegedly demanding Rs 25 crore as a bribe for not framing Aryan Khan in the drugs-on-crime case. The agency had then claimed that the deal was closed for Rs 18 crore and that Wankhade’s assets were not proportionate to his known sources of income.

The CBI’s charge against Wankhede should be seen in the context of the fact that

on May 27, 2022, the NCB had given Aryan Khan a “clean chit” in the much-discussed Cordelia cruise ship drug bust case, citing “lack of sufficient evidence” against him.

The 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 NCB.

Apart from Wankhede, the other NCB officers against whom an FIR was registered were: Vishwa Vijay Singh, then Superintendent (NCB), Ashish Ranjan, then Intelligence Officer of Mumbai Zonal Unit (NCB) and two witnesses in the case K P Gosavi and Sanvile D’Souza.

Wankhede and others were booked under Sections 7, 7A, and 12 of the Prevention of Corruption Act and sections 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 388 (extortion by threat of accusation of an offence) of the IPC.

The CBI had alleged in its FIR that Sameer and other accused named in its FIR had allegedly entered into conspiracy in order to extort an amount of around Rs 25 crore from the family members of the alleged accused “by threatening them of the accusation of offences of possession of narcotics substances as per the alleged directions of Wankhede being the supervisory officer”. The CBI had also alleged that “a token amount of Rs 50 lakh as bribe was allegedly obtained in furtherance of this conspiracy”.

It may be recalled that the NCB had arrested Aryan Khan, Arbaaz Merchant, Munmun Dhamecha and five others on October 3, after its officials busted a rave party and seized 13 grams of cocaine, 5 grams of MD (Mephedrone), 21 grams of Charas, 22 pills of MDMA (Ecstasy) and Rs 1.33 lakh in cash from Goa-bound Cordelia Cruises’ Empress ship, off the Mumbai coast. Subsequently, the NCB arrested 12 more persons in connection with the mid-sea rave party.

The permanent relief to Aryan in the sensational case came seven months after the Bombay High Court on October 28, 2021 granted bail to him and two others, 25 days after they were arrested in the sensational case.

On its part, the NCB had given Aryan Khan a “clean chit” on May 27, 2022 in the mid-sea drug bust case, citing “lack of sufficient evidence” against him. In effect, the NCB did not name Aryan and five others in the charge-sheet before a special court in the drug bust case on May 19, 2023.

However, the NCB had filed a 6,000-page chargesheet in the Special court against 14 others, including Arbaaz Merchant and Munmun Dhamecha, in the case, before the expiry of the extended deadline for filing of a charge-sheet in the case.

The 14 persons who have been charge-sheeted in the case were: Arbaaz Merchant, Munmun Dhamecha, Vikrant Chhokar, Mohak Jaiswal, Ishmeet Singh Chadha, Gomit Chopra, Nupur Satija, Abdul Kadar Shaikh, Shreyas Nair, Manish Rajgariya, Aachit Kumar, Chinedu Igwe, Shivraj Harijan and Okoro Uzeoma.

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