Sources tell mid-day CBI will investigate how crucial footage disappeared when NCB’s own vigilance department was gathering evidence; not satisfied with ‘rats chewed cables’ excuse
Rizwan Merchant, advocate, and former Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) Mumbai zonal director Sameer Wankhede speak to the media outside the Bombay High Court, on Friday. Pic/Ashish Raje
Highly placed sources in the NCB have told mid-day that the DVR and CCTV footage of its Mumbai zonal office got corrupted the day a vigilance team arrived in the city. These sources have confirmed that the CBI will investigate the matter to determine who tampered with the CCTV footage of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) Mumbai zonal office.
Sameer Wankhede, the controversial IRS officer who had arrested Aryan Khan last year, was in charge of the office. A clean chit was later granted to Khan by NCB’s SIT, which found several instances of misconduct in his arrest.
Former Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) Mumbai zonal director Sameer Wankhede was questioned about the CCTV footage, but claimed to have no knowledge of it as his personal assistant was responsible for it. Pic/Ashish Raje
Sources within the NCB have stated that the vigilance team was established on October 25, 2021, and its Special Enquiry Team (SET) arrived in Mumbai the same day to investigate the allegations made against Wankhede and other NCB officers by former cabinet minister Nawab Malik. On the day the vigilance team arrived in Mumbai, they requested for CCTV footage of the NCB Mumbai office to determine what had transpired on October 2, the day Aryan Khan was arrested. An officer involved in the investigation revealed, “We wanted to check what was happening inside the office, but the CCTV footage was not available as it had become corrupt on the day we reached the NCB Mumbai office.”
‘A rat chewed on the wires’
Office bearers later stated that the Digital Video Recorder (DVR) had been damaged by a rat chewing on the wires, causing it to stop functioning. The vigilance report mentions that the DVR submitted to the vigilance team was different and the original was intentionally withheld from them. It reads, “The SET collected the NCB office's CCTV equipment to verify the facts; however, it was discovered that it had become corrupted. The DVR and the hard disk provided by the NCB Mumbai office were different. The actions of the Zone suggest that the CCTV footage contained something important, and it was intentionally not provided to the SET.”
Wankhede was questioned about the CCTV footage, but he claimed to have no knowledge of it as his personal assistant was responsible for its maintenance. The CBI, which is currently investigating the case of corruption and extortion, will look into how the CCTV footage became corrupted the day the NCB vigilance team arrived in Mumbai.
‘Panch missing during panchnama’
Similarly, the SET formed by the Mumbai police also discovered several lapses in the investigation of Aryan Khan. The SET found that during the panchnama of Khan's arrest, the crucial witness, late Prabhakar Sail, who was also the panch, was standing outside the Mumbai International Cruise Terminal. A source within the Mumbai police stated, “During the panchnama, the panch has to be present at the spot, but he was standing outside, and there is digital evidence.”
The Mumbai SET did not file a case as Shahrukh Khan's manager, Pooja Dadlani, did not appear before them to provide her statement. However, whatever facts emerged before the SET were officially shared with the NCB’s vigilance team. “The money trail was proven with CCTV footage, showing it was taken to various people and then returned when allegations were made. We could have established the further chain, if it led to the NCB officers, but the FIR was not registered since the complainant and the victims did not come forward,” revealed a senior officer involved in the probe.
Wankhede through his lawyer Rizwan Merchant has said that Mumbai Police’s SET found nothing during their investigation and the enquiry was closed.
‘Carry on smear campaign’
On being asked about CCTV footage at the NCB Mumbai office going corrupt, Wankhede messaged to mid-day, “I thought you were writing today on SRK chats proving my innocence and the change of charge sheet to drop Aryan’s name. Nonetheless, not speaking to your paper. You can carry the vilification and smearing campaign against me. My best wishes.”
Inputs from Diwakar Sharma