NCB Deputy Director General Gyaneshwar Singh said Wankhede shared many things before the team which will collect some more documents from him in the coming days
On Wednesday, Sameer Wankhede spent more than four hours recording a statement before an NCB team in connection with the probe into allegations of extortion in the Mumbai cruise drugs case in which Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan was arrested earlier this month.
Wankhede’s statement was recorded at the NCB’s office in Ballard Estate in south Mumbai and the CRPF mess in suburban Bandra.
NCB Deputy Director General (northern region) Gyaneshwar Singh, said the team collected some crucial documents of the case from the (western) zone office.
“Taking ahead the investigation we recorded statement of Sameer Wankhede for four-and-a-half-hours during which he has shared many things before the team. We will collect some more documents from him in the coming time, and if required, we will get more information from him,” Singh told media.
“All the material witnesses in the probe will be called to record their statements, I will not take the name of any individual,” Singh added.
When asked whether Wankhede will continue to probe the cruise drugs seizure case, Singh said, “Let the investigation go ahead. If I have something concrete then only I will be able to submit a report to my DG”.
He also appealed to KP Gosavi, the absconding witness of NCB in the cruise drugs case, and Prabhakar Sail, another independent witness in the case, to join the enquiry.
“If they had any complaints or allegations they can approach us and record their statements,” he said.
Extortion allegations levelled against Wankhede and NCB’s stance
Sail had alleged that he had overheard Gosavi speaking over the phone about the Rs 25 crore demand out of which “Rs 8 crore is to be given to Sameer Wankhede”.
Responding to a query, Singh said, “We want to conduct an impartial and independent inquiry and that’s why we chose different locations for camping rather than the NCB zonal office”.
This is an independent place and they (witnesses) can discuss their complaints without any fear before the special team, he said while referring to the CRPF facility in Bandra.
“Gosavi and Sail can join the investigation tomorrow or a day after tomorrow and share whatever they want to with the Special Enquiry Team, preferably in the first half of the day,” Singh said.
He said the NCB had requested its South West region office to serve notices to the key witnesses- Sail and Gosavi.
“An NCB team tried to serve notices to both the witnesses, but found the residence of one of them locked while the other witness cannot be contacted,” the DDG said.
Singh said the NCB tried its best to contact Sail and Gosavi on their phone numbers and at the residential addresses as per NCB record, but couldn’t contact them.
“Through the media, I would like to request them, wherever they are, that they are free to join and submit the evidence, if any, before the Special Inquiry Team, which is camping at the CRPF Mess in Bandra,” he said.
The NCB has ordered a vigilance inquiry into the claims made by Sail in the cruise drugs case of an extortion bid of Rs 25 crore by some agency officials, including Sameer Wankhede.
What happened on Wednesday
Earlier in the day, a large number of media were present outside the NCB’s office when Singh arrived.
Wankhede, who is leading the probe in the cruise drugs case, visited the NCB’s headquarters in New Delhi on Tuesday and spent over two hours.
Sources earlier said the inquiry will also look at the aspect of Gosavi who was spotted near Aryan Khan after the raids, and the procedures followed by the sleuths while entrusting the custody of all the accused arrested on 3 October from the international cruise terminal in Mumbai.
The role of all the officers and witnesses involved in the case will be probed and it will be recorded if they followed the NCB manual and procedures mentioned in the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act during such operations, they said.
A political twist unearths the ‘nikah’ angle
Nawab Malik, on Wednesday morning, tweeted out “This is the ‘Nikah Nama’ of the first marriage of ‘Sameer Dawood Wankhede’ with Dr. Shabana Quraishi”.
This is the ‘Nikah Nama’ of the first marriage of
‘Sameer Dawood Wankhede’ with Dr. Shabana Quraishi pic.twitter.com/n72SxHyGxe
— Nawab Malik نواب ملک नवाब मलिक (@nawabmalikncp) October 27, 2021
The controversy surrounding the IRS officer took a wilder turn when the qazi who performed his first marriage in 2006 claimed that Wankhede belonged to a Muslim family otherwise the ‘nikah’ would not have been solemnised as per Islam.
“I had performed the ‘nikah’ of Sameer Wankhede and Shabana Qureshi (his first wife). Her father had approached me to perform the marriage in the Lokhandwala complex area of Mumbai. The groom’s name was Sameer Dawood Wankhede who married Shabana Qureshi,” Maulana Mujammil Ahmed told a news channel.
The qazi’s claim came against the backdrop of Nawab Malik’s allegations that Wankhede was born as a Muslim, but forged documents, including a caste certificate, to show he belonged to the Hindu SC category to get a job under quota after clearing the UPSC examination.
The Maulana claimed all the witnesses had signed the ‘nikahnama’ as per Islamic customs.
As the controversy over his marriage and religion refused to die down, Wankhede, who is in the eye of a political storm following allegations of extortion in the high-profile cruise drugs case said he had married (in 2006) as per Muslim customs as per the wish of his late mother.
“Fulfilling the wish of one’s mother in a secular country is not a crime. I am proud of secularism in our country. My mother was a Muslim and my father is a Hindu. I love both of them very much, ” Wankhede told PTI.
Wankhede asserted that he never converted to Islam and he belonged to a Hindu caste.
He said his first marriage was registered under the Special Marriage Act within a month. “The process of divorce was also completed as per the Special Marriage Act. I was never converted to Islam and I belong to a Hindu caste of my family,” Wankhede claimed.
Wankhede’s family refutes Malik’s claim
Meanwhile, Wankhede’s father once again refuted allegations of Nawab Malik about his religion. Malik had said Wankhede senior’s real name is Dawood Wankhede and not Dnyandev Wankhede.
Kranti Redkar, whom Wankhede married after divorce from his first wife, also came out in support of her husband, saying he never changed his religion.
#WATCH | We never denied anything, but can’t bear lies…Both of them belonged to different religions… and married under Special Marriage Act. We have legal documents, how is this forgery. It’s clearly written here that he is a Hindu: Kranti, NCB officer Sameer Wankhede’s wife pic.twitter.com/uSYd6pk4sJ
— ANI (@ANI) October 27, 2021
Redkar, who is an actress, contested the claim made by the qazi.
Addressing a press conference, Redkar, who married Wankhede in 2017, slammed Malik for playing “low level” politics by making a string of allegations against her husband.
“Is that qazi above the Constitution? He should produce papers to show Sameer Wankhede had converted (to Islam) to marry his first wife,” Redkar said, adding Wankhede had performed the ‘nikah’ in 2006 only to fulfil the wish of his late mother, who was Muslim.
“It was just a formality. Sameer (Wankhede) is born as a Hindu. He never converted. Malik is levelling allegations out of his grudge owing to the (drugs) case involving his son-in-law,” she claimed.
Redkar admitted that the signature on the 2006 nikahnama was of Sameer Wankhede’s. “He doesn’t know much about nikahnama (a written document that two Muslim partners entering into a civil union must put their signature on to legalise their marriage),” she claimed.
Meanwhile, Wankhede’s father Dnyandev Wankhede said he would approach the court against Malik.
“What do my religion or castes have to do with the drug cases? I am Hindu and Mahar (Scheduled Caste). The 2006 nikahnama is correct and my signature is also genuine. But I didn’t understand the content of the document since it was in Urdu,” he told reporters.
Wankhede’s sister files complaint against Malik
An India Today report said Yasmeen Wankhede lodged a complaint at Mumbai’s Oshiwara police station on Wednesday, requesting an FIR against Nawab Malik. She has also mailed a copy of her complaint to the National Commission for Women (NCW).
“Request to take cognizance of my grievances so as to safeguard my constitutional rights as a woman with a further request to take appropriate steps to deal with the named accused in accordance with law, including issuing the appropriate directions to the concerned Police Station to register C.R. (F.I.R.) against Mr. Nawab Malik,” she wrote in her complaint.
In his attacks against Sameer Wankhede, the minority affairs minister of Maharashtra had also alleged that Yasmeen has links with Fletcher Patel, one of the witnesses to the NCB cruise-raid on 2 October that led Aryan Khan’s arrest.
Nawab Malik lashes out at BJP
Speaking separately, Malik, who has repeatedly termed the cruise drug bust case as “fake” and levelled a string of allegations against Wankhede, hit out at the BJP.
“I wonder why BJP leaders are getting uncomfortable when I am trying to expose Sameer Wankhede,” he said.
On Wednesday, the minister said, “The Cordelia cruise drugs party organisers—Fashion TV— had not taken any permission from the Maharashtra Police or the state home department. They obtained the permission directly from the directorate of shipping, which comes under the Union Ministry for Ports, Shipping and Waterways.”
“I believe that a top committee of NCB officials from Delhi has arrived here. They should check the call detail records of personal phones of NCB zonal director Sameer Wankhede, (witnesses) KP Gosavi, Prabhakar Sail and Wankhede’s driver Mane. You will need no recording of statements. The phone calls will be self-explanatory,” he said.
The minister claimed a member of an international drugs mafia was present on the same cruise.
“There are some of videos of the party in which the person, sporting a beard, can been seen. I am told he was in the Tihar Jail (Delhi) and in a Rajasthan jail in the past. The NCB’s Delhi team should check the CCTV cameras of the cruise. How come a few people were arrested and the international level drugs mafia (member) is moving scot-free?” he asked.
Wankhede sought police protection on Sunday
Wankhede on Sunday wrote to Mumbai Police commissioner Hemant Nagrale, seeking protection from likely legal action “being planned” against him by unknown persons to falsely frame him concerning an alleged vigilance-related issue.
On Monday, he failed to get any relief related to an affidavit on the sensational extortion claims made by Sail, with a special court saying it cannot pass a blanket order barring courts from taking cognisance of the document.
With inputs from agencies