STATE TIMES NEWS
Mumbai: The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) busted a drugs party onboard a cruise ship off the Mumbai coast and arrested Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan and seven others, including two women, on Sunday, officials said.The NCB team, led by its zonal director Sameer Wankhede, raided the Goa-bound ship on Saturday evening based on a tip-off that a party was scheduled onboard. The sleuths seized 13 grams of cocaine, five grams of MD, 21 grams of charas and 22 pills of Ecstasy and Rs 1.33 lakh.A special holiday court of additional metropolitan magistrate R K Rajebhosale on Sunday remanded Aryan Khan, Munmun Dhamecha and Arbaaz Merchant to the custody of the NCB till October 4.The NCB on Sunday said it had evidence suggesting a nexus between three persons it had arrested, including Aryan Khan, and suppliers and peddlers of drugs and banned narcotic substances regularly.Prima facie investigation conducted by the NCB reveals that there is incriminating material in the form of WhatsApp chats and so on that clearly shows the nexus with the arrested accused (Aryan Khan and two others) with suppliers and peddlers on a regular basis, the NCB said in its remand note.Aryan Khan and seven others were detained late Saturday night by NCB sleuths after they raided the cruise ship on its way from Mumbai to Goa.“During the raid, over 20 officials of the Mumbai NCB boarded the ship posing as customers. There were 1,800 people on the ship but after checking all were asked to go except the eight including Aryan Khan,”an NCB official said.The official said the anti-drugs agency was keeping a close watch on this event on the cruise ship for the last 15-20 days after receiving information that a drug party will be organised. After confirmation, the NCB took the action, he added.He said the suspects had hidden drugs in their clothes, undergarments and purses (by women).Besides Aryan Khan, the arrested accused are identified as Munmun Dhamecha, Arbaaz Merchant, Ismeet Singh, Mohak Jaswal, Gomit Chopra, Nupur Sarika, and Vikrant Chhokar, the official said.Aryan Khan has been booked under sections 27 (punishment for consumption of any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance), 8C (produce, manufacture, possess, sell or purchase of drugs) and other relevant provisions of the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS).An NCB official said the anti-drugs agency is likely to summon officials of the cruise company and the event management firm in connection with the seizure of banned drugs onboard the ship.He said the NCB may question officials of Delhi-based event management company Namas’cray, registered as Caneplus Trading Private Limited, and officials of the cruise company, Cordelia Cruises.The (Delhi-based) firm was tasked with the management of the event onboard Cordelia Cruises’ Empress ship, which was supposed to take place from October 2 to October 4. All known organisers of the event are now under the scanner of the NCB, he said.The NCB will now determine whether any of the organisers had any knowledge about the drugs being brought and consumed onboard during the three-day cruise in the Arabian Sea. Three additional directors of the event management company are now under the lens of the agency, the official added.These three additional directors were tasked with selling tickets, preparing a guest list, inviting celebrities and helping with the musical events onboard the ship, he added.Meanwhile, the cruise company in a statement on Sunday said it had nothing to do with this incident.“Cordelia Cruises is in no way, directly or indirectly, connected to this incident. Cordelia Cruises had chartered its ship for a private event to a Delhi-based event management company, Jurgen Bailom, Chief Executive Officer and President, Waterways Leisure Tourism Pvt Ltd said in the statement.We, at Cordelia Cruises, condemn all acts such as these and will strictly refrain from letting our ship out for similar events in the future. Nonetheless, Cordelia Cruises is extending our full support and cooperating with the authorities,” it added.In the holiday court, NCB’s advocate Advait Sethna sought custody of the accused for two days on the ground that the investigation is at a nascent stage and more raids are being carried out to apprehend the supplier of drugs.The NCB has apprehended one more person in the supply chain. Thus, NCB custody of these accused is imperative for proper investigation to unearth their links and nexus, the remand note said adding the arrested accused need to be confronted with each other so as to establish the link.The NCB further said the three arrested accused have recorded their statements voluntarily.There are five more connected persons who are under investigation and are likely to be produced before the court later. Eight persons were apprehended on the cruise by the NCB team and are under investigation for suspicious transactions constituting offences under the NDPS Act, the NCB’s remand note said.Aryan Khan’s advocate Satish Maneshinde argued that his client was invited to the event being held on the cruise by the organisers.No incriminating material has been recovered from him (Aryan Khan). There is no possession or evidence of consumption, he said.Maneshinde said he would be filing an application seeking bail for Aryan Khan on Monday.Although the sections under which Aryan Khan has been booked are all bailable offences, I am willing to settle for one day’s NCB custody so that we can file for bail before the regular court, Maneshinde told the court.Meanwhile, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar on Sunday said the law is same for everyone.When asked about the NCB action, Pawar said he was not aware about the details.The Congress, meanwhile, alleged that the raid conducted by the NCB was an attempt to deflect attention from the “real issue” of the drugs seizure at Mundra port in Gujarat.The party also demanded a Supreme Court-monitored probe into the drugs haul at the port.Last month, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) had seized 2,988.21 kg heroin, likely worth Rs 21,000 crore in the global market, from two containers at the Adani-operated Mundra port in Gujarat’s Kutch district.“There is a news that a Bollywood actor’s son has been arrested. Where did this drug come from? The NCB has come out and all of sudden saying that it has caught drugs from a cruise ship,” Goa Congress’ spokesperson Shama Mohamed told reporters.They are deflecting attention from the real issue. The real issue is Mundra port, the drug cartels in the country and drugs that is smuggled from Afghanisthan, she alleged.Seeking an SC-monitored investigation into the drug seizure at Mundra port, the Congress spokesperson said that drugs are smuggled into India from Afghanisthan, which will fund terrorist organisations, separatist groups and eventually create political instability in the country.The Maharashtra Congress welcomed the raid on the drugs party onboard the cruise ship, but expressed doubt if it was done to suppress the Mundra port drugs seizure.“It is good if the government stops peddling of drugs and their consumption in the state. We welcome it. But at the same time, it has to be noted that there has been no action or discussion on the seizure of drugs worth Rs 21,000 crore at the Mundra port in Gujarat. There is room for doubt if such raids are being conducted to shift focus fro the last month’s seizure,” state Congress spokesperson Atul Londhe said.
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