A year after Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s son was cleared of all charges of possession and consumption of drugs, the case is once again making headlines in India.
An officer in charge of investigating the case against Aryan Khan – who was arrested in November 2021 – has been charged for corruption and extortion.
Sameer Wankhede has been accused of asking for a bribe of 250m rupees ($3.04m, £2.4m) from the actor’s family.
On Monday, he was among the five people named in a complaint filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), India’s leading investigation agency.
The CBI said that Mr Wankhede had allegedly allowed his aides to threaten Aryan Khan’s family, saying he would be framed in a drugs case unless they paid the amount.
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Mr Wankhede has denied the allegations and said he is being “rewarded for being a patriot”.
There was no immediate comment from Aryan Khan or his family.
The case so far
Mr Wankhede was one of the three officers who led the October 2021 raid on a cruise in which the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) claimed to have seized drugs from Aryan Khan and 19 others, and arrested them.
Aryan Khan was taken off a cruise ship that was on its way from Mumbai – the city where his family live – to Goa.
The NCB said Aryan Khan and the others were detained under laws “related to possession, consumption and sale of illegal substances”.
The case made headlines in India and globally. The Bollywood actor’s son spent nearly three weeks in jail and was later released on bail.
A twist came in November when Mr Wankhede was criticised for mishandling the case and was transferred from his position as the chief of NCB’s Mumbai zone.
Nawab Malik, a politician belonging to the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) which was part of the ruling alliance in Maharashtra at that time, accused Mr Wankhede of several irregularities, including extortion.
Shortly after, the case against Aryan Khan – along with six other pending investigations – was taken away from Mr Wankhede and handed over to a special investigation team.
Mr Wankhede’s tenure with the NCB ended in December and five months later, he was moved to a tax department in the southern city of Chennai. Reports, however, said that he continued to spend most of his time in Mumbai on leave.
In the meantime, the drugs agency cleared Aryan Khan of all charges in May 2022.
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In August, the case was back in the news after Mr Wankhede filed a police complaint, alleging that he was receiving death threats on social media.
In another complaint the same month, Mr Wankhede alleged that he was being harassed by a top NCB official, who was investigating the irregularities in the drugs case.
What are the charges against Wankhede ?
The CBI says it began investigating Mr Wankhede and four others after an NCB official accused them of impropriety under Mr Wankhede’s supervision.
It said that a special enquiry team of the NCB found several irregularities in the manner in which Mr Wankhede conducted the investigation.
The names of 17 suspects had been dropped from the official documents filed in connection with the case, the agency said in its complaint.
It added that Mr Wankhede allowed two civilians – KP Gosavi and his aide Sanvile D’Souza – to accompany the team of NCB officials on the raid as “independent witnesses”, but gave the suspects the impression that they were NCB officials.
“Gosavi was even allowed to come to the NCB office after the raid, which is against the norms for an independent witness,” the complaint registered by the CBI said. “He also clicked selfies and recorded the voice note of an accused.”
According to the enquiry team, this allowed Mr Gosavi to demand 250m rupees from Aryan Khan’s family as he threatened them with accusations of drug possession against their son.
The amount was brought down to 180m rupees and a token amount of 5m rupees was taken as bribe by Mr Gosavi and Mr D’Souza. A part of this was later returned by them, the CBI said. Aryan Khan’s family has not commented on the allegation.
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The CBI complaint also alleged that during the investigation, Mr Wankhede had failed to provide “satisfactory proof” of his assets against his declared income.
What’s happening now?
On Monday, CBI officials raided Mr Wankhede’s home along with 28 other locations in Mumbai city in connection with the case.
Mr Wankhede denied the allegations against him and said he was being “rewarded for being a patriot”.
“They found 23,000 rupees and four property papers in my house,” he told reporters after the raid . “These assets were acquired before I joined the service.”
On Tuesday, his wife said the allegations against him were wrong.
“We are fully cooperating in the CBI proceedings. We have faith in law and order, and we are ready to cooperate with the investigating agency as a responsible citizen,” Kranti Redkar Wankhede told news agency ANI.