Mumbai NCB Zonal Director Sameer Wankhede Faces Allegations of Bribery and Legal Scrutiny

In a startling development, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has initiated an investigation against Sameer Wankhede, the Mumbai zonal director of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), following allegations of bribery and corruption. Wankhede, a prominent figure in the agency, is accused of demanding a staggering Rs 25 crore bribe from Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan to secure the release of his son, Aryan Khan, who was embroiled in the Cordelia cruise ship drug case back in October 2021.

The ED's decision to register a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) comes in the wake of mounting evidence against Wankhede, whose actions have come under intense scrutiny in recent months. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has also stepped in, filing a separate FIR against Wankhede for his alleged involvement in the bribery scandal.

Wankhede, a seasoned Indian Revenue Service officer hailing from the Customs and Indirect Taxes cadre, has moved to protect himself from what he perceives as "coercive activities" by the ED, seeking refuge in the Bombay High Court. This legal manoeuvre underscores the gravity of the accusations levelled against him and signals a fierce legal battle ahead.

The allegations against Wankhede not only implicate him in acts of bribery but also extend to charges of extortion and criminal conspiracy, as per reports by the PTI news agency. These serious accusations have cast a shadow over the integrity of law enforcement agencies and raised questions about the methods employed in high-profile drug cases.

The NCB, in its internal investigation, uncovered troubling discrepancies in Wankhede's handling of the Cordelia cruise case. It was revealed that proper procedures, such as documentation of phone seizures and recording of statements, were not diligently followed by Wankhede's team. Moreover, an 'independent witness' alleged that Wankhede, along with other NCB officials, demanded a hefty bribe from Shah Rukh Khan, further complicating the matter.

Aryan Khan, who was arrested on October 3, 2021, during a raid on the Cordelia cruise ship, found himself at the centre of a highly publicised legal battle. However, a special investigation team (SIT) constituted by the NCB later absolved him of any involvement in wider drug trafficking networks, contradicting Wankhede's assertions.

As the legal proceedings unfold and the investigations gather momentum, the case involving Sameer Wankhede serves as a stark reminder of the challenges facing India's law enforcement agencies in combating drug-related crimes while upholding the principles of justice and transparency.

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