The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has initiated a money laundering investigation against Sameer Wankhede, the former Zonal Director of Mumbai Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), in connection with the 2021 Cordelia cruise drug bust case.
The central agency, acting under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), has also summoned three NCB officers for further interrogation. Wankhede is anticipated to be summoned for questioning in the near future.
This development follows the Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) action in 2023, where Wankhede was booked for allegedly demanding a bribe of Rs. 25 crore in the Aryan Khan drug-on-cruise case involving Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan’s son. The CBI asserted that the deal was settled for Rs. 18 crore, highlighting a disproportionate increase in Wankhede’s assets compared to his known sources of income.
Wankhede’s Case: Allegations and CBI Inquiry Based on an NCB complaint, the CBI filed charges against Wankhede and others for alleged criminal conspiracy, threat of extortion, and bribery under the Prevention of Corruption Act. The FIR revealed discrepancies in the expenses incurred during Wankhede’s foreign visit. In response, Wankhede claimed that he was being targeted due to his patriotism.
Drug-on-Cruise Case: NCB’s Actions and SIT’s Findings Aryan Khan’s arrest in the alleged drug bust on the Cordelia cruise ship in October 2021, led by Wankhede at the time, resulted in a clean chit from the NCB in May 2022 due to insufficient evidence. However, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) formed by the anti-drugs agency pointed out lapses in Wankhede’s probe.
NCB’s Internal Investigation: Arbaaz Merchant and Aryan’s Inclusion The NCB’s internal investigation exposed last-minute inclusions of Arbaaz Merchant and Aryan in the agency’s “information note.” Wankhede’s team faced criticism for inadequate documentation of phone seizures and statement recording, as per the inquiry. The narcotics bureau, in an affidavit before the Bombay High Court, stated that Wankhede couldn’t use his chats with Shah Rukh as evidence due to their secretive nature.