Mumbai: The chief spokesman of the Nationalist Congress Party and Minority Affairs Minister Nawab Malik fired a fresh salvo against the Narcotics Control Bureau’s (NCB) Zonal Director Sameer Wankhede and accused him of extortion. Malik released some photographs of Wankhede and his sister Jasmeen Wankhede, claiming that these were purportedly from when they were in the Maldives, around the same time that several celebrities were visiting the archipelago during the second wave of Covid-19.
“Attempts were made to implicate certain people in false cases. During the pandemic, the entire film industry was in Maldives. What was the officer and his family doing in Maldives and Dubai? This has to be clarified by Sameer Wankhede,” said Malik. “We are very clear. All this ‘vasuli’ (extortion) took place in the Maldives and Dubai and I will release those photos,” he added.
Malik made fresh allegations against the NCB and Wankhede on a day when the Bollywood actor Ananya Pandey was summoned by the anti-drug agency and an NCB team visited Shah Rukh Khan’s house at Bandra.
“We demand that he clarify whether he was in Dubai,” Malik said. “Was his family in the Maldives when the entire film industry was there, too? What was the reason for their going there?” he asked.
In his response, Wankhede admitted that he and his family had gone to the Maldives after his leave had been officially sanctioned. Further, Wankhede said, “The word ‘extortion’ is a disgusting term. I did go to the Maldives after taking permission from the competent authorities. I went with my family after taking the government’s permission. If he calls this extortion, then it is not acceptable,”
A release from NCB Deputy Director General Mutha Ashok Jain said, “Sameer Wankhede, IRS, joined NCB on loan basis on August 31, 2020 and after this, he has not submitted any application for Ex-India leave to Dubai. As per the approval of Competent Authority vice NCB order No A-50/2/2-21-Acctss/146 dated July 27, 2021, the office has availed Ex-India leave along with his family to Maldives.”
Jain said, “After joining the NCB, there was no application from him (Sameer Wankhede) for going to Dubai. He sought permission for going to the Maldives with his family.”
Wankhede refuted Malik’s allegations of being in Dubai during the lockdown in December 2020. “Those are photos from Mumbai. I was in Mumbai. Nobody can hinder the truth. Find out where I was, get data from the airport. Get everything verified through my passport and visa,” Wankhede clarified.
“I’ve never been to Dubai, whenever he’s stating I did. There are mechanisms to check where a person is. So, it’s completely false. I’ve never been to Dubai with my sister - during the date and time he’s mentioning. So, it’s false and completely condemnable,” he added.
However, Malik shot back saying, “Sameer Wankhede has accepted the fact that he had visited the Maldives but denies having visited Dubai. In a tweet, to which were attached purported photos of Wankhede and his sister Jasmeen, he said, “Here is the proof of his visit to Dubai with his sister. Sameer Wankhede was at Grand Hyatt Hotel in Dubai on 10th December, 2020. His lie stands exposed.”
Malik further alleged that Wankhede was specifically brought into the agency by the Central government after the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput last year. He also claimed that Rajput’s girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty was implicated in a ‘fake case’ by the NCB.
“After Sushant Singh Rajput’s suicide, Sameer Wankhede was transferred to the NCB and Rhea Chakraborty was arrested immediately,” said Malik.
However, NCP deputy DG Jain said Wankhede, IRS, was inducted as zonal director, Mumbai, on August 31, 2020, on a loan basis for six months.
Malik declared that he would soon “expose Wankhede with full proof on all the fake cases with which he’s trying to instil fear in Bollywood,” for which he would pay a heavy price. “Within six months, he will lose his job and within a year, he will be jailed. I am collecting evidence against him,” he said.
Wankhede responded, “My best wishes are with him. I am just a government employee. He is a minister. If he wants to put me in jail for serving the country, for working honestly and eliminating the drugs menace, then I welcome it.”
Hinting at legal action against Malik, Wankhede said, “I will take permission from my agency before opting for any legal action against Nawab Malik.”
Malik countered that he would definitely take legal action, as the law in the country said he was free to do so. “I too have a right to take the legal route. Definitely, the thing will be presented on the appropriate forum and it will definitely be happening in future,” the NCP minister added.
Malik’s statements elicited an angry reaction from the opposition Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS)’s film wing chief Ameya Khopkar, who cautioned the NCP leader “to keep off and stop dragging” his party colleague (Jasmeen Wankhede) into his politics.
Jasmeen Wankhede also hit back, asking whether “Malik is a judge,” and said she was accountable to her family and friends and the NCP leader had no business to publicise her private trip.