A SIT, or special investigation team, to be led by senior police officer Sanjay Singh, will take over the Aryan Khan case as well as six others that were being handled by Mr Wankhede, including one involving Maharashtra minister Nawab Malik’s son-in-law.
Mr Singh is a 1996 batch officer from the Odisha cadre.
Shortly after news of the cases being shifted, Mr Wankhede was told NDTV “I have not been removed from anywhere” and that he had asked for the cases to be transferred out.
“I’ve not been removed from investigation. It was my writ petition in the Bombay High Court that the matter be probed by a central agency like the CBI or NIA. Based on that, a SIT has now been formed under the leadership of a senior officer…” he told NDTV over the phone.
Sameer Wankhede has been at the centre of a major controversy after accusations from Nawab Malik and, more importantly, from Prabhakar Sail, a NCB witness in the Aryan Khan case, brought his record and his handling of cases into question.
Last week, amid a flurry of criticism and scrutiny, the anti-drugs agency publicly backed the senior officer, citing an “impeccable service record… replete with honesty and integrity”.
Simultaneously, however, the agency also initiated an internal probe; a five-member team headed by Deputy Director-General Gyaneshwar Singh did visit Mumbai last week, and took down Mr Wankhede’s statement, but left without speaking to Prabhakar Sail.
The agency’s backing came after Mr Sail, who described himself as a “bodyguard”, filed an affidavit saying he overheard a conversation between his employer KP Gosavi (another agency witness, whose selfie with Aryan after his arrest have raised more questions about the NCB’s case), Shah Rukh Khan’s manager Pooja Dadlani, and a Sam D’Souza this month.
Mr Sail said they discussed a Rs 18 crore deal, of which Rs 8 crore was for Mr Wankhede.
The NCB hit back with an affidavit of its own that said allegations were being concocted to “malign the agency’s image”, and Mr Wankhede denied all extortion and payoff charges.
He also wrote to Mumbai Police complaining about “precipitate legal action” to “frame” him. The police said he would be given three days’ notice if they intended to arrest him.
Mr Wankhede filed an affidavit too, in which he claimed he was being “personally targeted” – a reference to relentless attacks by Mr Malik, who has, among other things, accused the NCB forging a caste certificate and other documents to secure a government job.
In his most recent attack (on Tuesday), Mr Malik questioned Mr Wankhede’s honesty, pointing to “shirts worth Rs 50,000” and alleging that unverified WhatsApp chats between the officer’s sister (a lawyer) and a known drug smuggler were proof of a conspiracy.
Mr Wankhede said the chats were part of several in which his sister, Yasmeen Wankhede, rejected an approach for representation because she did not handle drug cases.
To news of Mr Wankhede being removed, Mr Malik tweeted “this is just the beginning”.
“Sameer Wankhede removed from five cases, including the Aryan Khan case. There are 26 cases that need to be probed. This is just the beginning… a lot more has to be done to clean this system and we will do it,” the minister, scheduled to hold a presser on Sunday, wrote.
With inputs from NDTV, ANI