The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Tuesday informed the Bombay High Court that it has transferred the probe into a money laundering case against Sameer Wankhede, former Mumbai zone director of the Narcotics Control Bureau, to its Delhi office.
Wankhede, who has moved the high court here seeking to quash the case, should instead move the Delhi High Court, it said.
Wankhede, who approached the Bombay High Court last week, has also sought a temporary stay to the investigation, and protection from “coercive action” (such as arrest) until his petition is decided.
On Tuesday, his lawyer Aabad Ponda argued before a division bench of Justices P D Naik and N R Borkar that the ED’s action of transferring the probe was “malafide”.
“Till Friday, the ED was sending summons to persons asking them to appear before its Mumbai office. But now after this petition was filed by Wankhede, the probe has been transferred to Delhi,” advocate Ponda said.
This was done only to ensure that Wankhede did not get a hearing on Thursday before the Bombay HC which had last year granted him interim protection from coercive action in a case of corruption and extortion registered by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the lawyer claimed.
Advocate Hiten Venegaonkar, appearing for the ED, defended the transfer of probe citing administrative reasons.
“The entire proceedings are already transferred to Delhi. The entire cause of action lies there now. All papers have been sent to Delhi. There is nothing here now,” he said.
The bench said it would hear the matter on February 15 (Thursday) along with Wankhede’s petition filed last year against the CBI case.
The ED registered a money laundering case against him after taking cognisance of the CBI’s First Information Report (FIR) where he was accused of demanding Rs 25 crore bribe from Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s family to spare his son Aryan Khan in an alleged drugs case.
Wankhede, a 2008-batch Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officer of the Customs and Indirect Taxes cadre, in his plea said the ED’s case “smacks of malice and vendetta”.
While the case was registered last year, summons has been issued to some NCB officers now after he filed a complaint against the NCB’s deputy director Gyaneshwar Singh last month before a Delhi court seeking action against him under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, Wankhede said.
Singh and a few powerful people unleashed agencies like the CBI, ED and NCB to frame him, he alleged.
Wankhede, then the NCB’s zonal director in Mumbai, was in limelight after Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan was arrested in an alleged drug seizure onboard the Cordelia cruise ship here on October 2, 2021.
Later, the NCB filed a charge sheet against 14 accused in the case, but gave a clean chit to Aryan.
The case took a completely different turn when an ‘independent witness’ claimed that Rs 25 crore were demanded by an NCB official and others to let off Aryan Khan, leading to an internal vigilance probe against Wankhede by the NCB.