While the world was celebrating and ringing in the new year, somewhere quietly in Mumbai, one of the most controversial officers was preparing to end his eventful stint with the Narcotics Control Bureau. Yes, you heard that right. I am referring to Sameer Wankhede, the NCB Zonal Director, whose tenure quitely ended on the last day of the year – Friday, December 31st.
But certainly his time at the NCB was far from quiet. Sameer Wankhede, who became an Indian Revenue Service officer back in 2008, remained the news throughout the last 2 years ever since the death of Sushant Singh Rajput, after which NCB led by him, started hauling up big and small names from Bollywood, in connections with a thriving drug nexus.
But his biggest case was yet to come. Sameer Wankhede found himself in a spot and a barrage of accusations after he arrested Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan in the drugs-on-cruise case.
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Now, Just days before his tenure with the NCB was about to end, Sameer Wankhede confirmed that he will not seek an extension of his term with the NCB. It is not yet clear where he would be posted after this, as per officials familiar with the mattter.
After Sushant Singh Rajput’s mysterious death on 14th June 2020, several central agencies including the CBI, ED and NCB got involved and started investigating the case from different angles. But it was the NCB that used the case as a springboard to penetrate into the network of peddlers and suppliers in Bollywood and beyond.
Starting with Sushant’s girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty, multiple high-profile Bollywood personalities were interrogated and arrested by the NCB under Sameer Wankhede, who as on deputation to the NCB since September 2020. Sameer continued to grab headlines when he called in more Bollywood actors like Deepika Padukone, Shraddha Kapoor, Sara Ali Khan and TV actor Bharti among others, for questioning.
Between August and December 2020 alone, Sameer Wankhede arrested 96 people and registered 28 cases in just 5 months. In 2021, Sameer and his team made 234 arrests, registered 117 cases, seized over 1 thousand 7 hundred and 91 kilos of drugs worth around 1,000 crore rupees, and froze properties over ₹11 crores, as per the NCB.
But hitting the headlines for his work, is nothing new for Sameer Wankhede. Not many would remember this but in 2011, when the Indian cricket team won the World Cup, the team had to make do with a replica of the trophy.
The original trophy was stuck at the customs department at the Mumbai International airport for non-payment of a 35 percent duty on it. Sameer Wankhede had been an assistant commissioner of customs at the time.
Even as the Assistant Commissioner of Customs, posted at the Mumbai Airport, he had several run-ins with celebrities, who were evading Customs duty.
He had detained actors Minissha Lamba and Anushka Sharma at the airport for not declaring that they were carrying gold and diamond-studded jewellery.
In July 2011, he had fined Shah Rukh Khan 1.5 lakh rupees at the airport for carrying excess luggage. The actor had arrived at Mumbai airport after a family vacation in Holland and London.
In 2013, he served at the Central Excise department for a few months. In his short term there, he had memorable run-ins with several Bollywood names, such as Anurag Kashyap, Ram Gopal Verma and Vivek Oberoi. In August 2013, he imposed a fine of 55 lakhs on Anurag Kashyap for service tax evasion. A similar fine of 40 lakhs was imposed on Vivek Oberoi too, by Sameer Wankhede.
But it’s only in the last 2 years that Sameer Wankhede has constantly been in the news for doing his duty. Just a few days back, Sameer Wankhede, and his wife Kranti moved a Mumbai sessions court pleading that the social media companies block individuals who were trying to defame them.
In the plea filed before the Dindoshi sessions court, Sameer Wankhede sought a permanent injunction against Google India, Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, and Twitter, asking that they be restrained from allowing “unsubstantiated and baseless posts” against him, his wife, and any of their relatives. The petition also sought action against them under the Information Technology Act, 2000.
The suit read that while an SIT has been formed for an inquiry into allegations against him, “it is only just and fair” that the defendants are directed to prevent misuse of their platforms to defame a government servant “who has no other remedy”.
But Sameer Wankhede’s biggest problem was Maharashtra Minister Nawab Malik, who many say had a bone to pick with him, because Sameer had arrested his son-in-law, also named, Sameer, in a drugs case. Last month, Sameer Wankhede’s father, filed a defamation suit against Nawab Malik in Bombay High Court. It said that Nawab Malik has caused “irreparable loss, damage, harm, prejudice to the name, character and reputation of Sameer Wankhede and his family members”.
On 25th November this year, the Bombay High Court came down heavily on Nawab Malik, who said that he will not make any statement against Sameer Wankhede and his family until the mattter is decided.
Now, finally, Sameer Wankede’s stint with the NCB has come to an end and it will be interesting to see where his new posting takes him in the new year.
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