With the drug angle surfacing in the ongoing probe into Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death and the arrest of several peddlers, the Union Finance Ministry has “loaned” one of its finest officers from the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) Mumbai zone to the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) as its Zonal Director, Maharashtra and Goa, for a period of six months.
According to NCB officers, Sameer Dnyadev Wankhede, Joint Director, will supervise the drug enforcement agency’s important probes, including one related to Sushant’s girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty, among others. In an order on August 27, the Ministry of Finance said, “With the approval of competent authority, it has been decided to attach Sameer Dnyandev Wankhede, IRS (C&CE: 2008), Joint Director, DRI Mumbai on loan basis with the NCB for a period of six months from the date of assumption of charge of of the post or until further orders, whichever is earlier.” The order also said that during the period of Wankhede’s posting with NCB, he will continue to draw his pay and allowances from his parent place of posting.
The order came just a day after the NCB registered a case against Rhea, her brother Showik, talent manager Jaya Saha, Sushant’s co-manager Shruti Modi, and Goa-based hotelier Gaurav Arya under Sections 20 (b) 28, 29 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act.
Meanwhile, sources in the Department of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) said Wankhede is a no-nonsense officer, with a vast network of informants. Sources said that over the past two years, he has led several high-profile probes, including DRI operations that led to the seizure of banned narcotics worth over 16,000 kilograms, including 1,000 kg of Afghan-origin heroin worth Rs 1, 000 crores seized recently at Nhava Sheva port.
Before joining DRI, Wankhede was also posted with the National Investigation Agency (NIA). At the premier anti-terrorism agency, he led key probes, including those against alleged Islamic State recruit Areeb Majeed, controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik and the murders of two BJP leaders in Bharuch, Gujarat.
NCB sources said that Wankhede, who has joined NCB as its Zonal Director, Maharashtra and Goa, will carry out investigations to uncover facts related to the Rhea case and lead the crackdown on narcotics networks especially active in Bollywood.
The NCB registered a case on the request from the Enforcement Directorate (ED) after it got the alleged chats of Rhea with Sushant‘s flatmate Siddharth Pithani, his house manager Samuel Miranda, talent manager Jaya Saha and others emerged pointing at the drug angle in the case. Meanwhile, Rhea’s lawyer Satish Maneshinde claimed she has never ever in her life consumed drugs and was ready for a blood test.
NCB sources related to the probe said the agency had prepared the list of 20 suspects for alleged supply of drugs in the case including Goa-based hotelier Gaurav Arya, Suved Lohia, Saha, former ‘Big Boss’ contestant Ejaz Khan, Farookh Batata and Bakul Chandani, among others. Besides the ED and the NCB, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is also probing Sushant’s death.