ED Files Case Against NCB Zonal Director Sameer Wankhede Over Money Laundering Complaint By CBI

The Enforcement Directorate on Saturday registered a case against Mumbai NCB zonal director Sameer Wankhede and began an investigation into a money laundering complaint against him. Wankhede allegedly demanded Rs 25 crore as bribe from Shah Rukh Khan to "spare his son Aryan Khan" whom he arrested in the Cordelia crusie ship drug case in October, 2021. This resulted in the registration of an FIR by the CBI.

Based on this, the ED registered the case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). The ED also summoned three Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) officials, news agency PTI reported.   

Wankhede, an Indian Revenue Service officer of the Customs and Indirect Taxes cadre, moved the Bombay High Court to seek protection from any coercive activities by the central investigation agency ED. CBI had booked Wankhede in May 2023 for the alleged bribe demand after he arrested Aryan Khan in the Mumbai drugs case, PTI reported. 

Apart from the provisions on bribery under the Prevention of Corruption Act, the CBI had also booked Wankhede and others for extortion (388 IPC) and alleged criminal conspiracy (120-B IPC). 

NCB filed a charge sheet in the Cordelia cruise case against 14 accused, but gave a clean chit to Aryan Khan a year later after the incident. The case took a turn when an 'independent witness' claimed that Wankhede, former superintendent of NCB Vishwa Vijay Singh, and intelligence officer Ashish Ranjan, along with another witness Kiran Gosavi, demanded Rs 25 crore to facilitate the release of Aryan Khan. Subsequently, the NCB initiated an internal vigilance investigation against Wankhede and associates, sharing its findings with the CBI, which resulted in a case being filed against him, PTI reported.

Aryan Khan was placed under arrest on October 3, 2021, a day following a raid on the Cordelia cruise ship in Mumbai. A special investigation team (SIT) established by the NCB gave a clean chit to Aryan Khan on May 27 last year, stating that he was not involved in any broader drug trafficking network as alleged by Wankhede, Hindustan Times reported.

The NCB's internal inquiry disclosed that the names of Aryan Khan and Arbaaz Merchant were added to the agency's "information note" at the eleventh hour. Moreover, it was found that proper procedures, such as the documentation of phone seizures and the recording of statements, were not carried out by Wankhede's team.

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