Six cases being investigated by NCB officer Sameer Wankhede - including the Aryan Khan drugs case - have been transferred out of the agency's Mumbai unit amid allegations of extortion and a Rs 8 crore payoff linked to the case involving Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan's son.
A SIT led by senior police officer Sanjay Singh, a 1996 batch officer from the Odisha cadre, will take over the Aryan Khan case, as well another involving Maharashtra minister Nawab Malik's son-in-law.
The SIT is scheduled to arrive in Mumbai today.
Mr Malik, who has been relentless in his attacks on the anti-drugs agency and Mr Wankhede, today said he had demanded a SIT probe to investigate charges against the senior officer.
I had demanded an S.I.T probe to investigate Sameer Dawood Wankhede for kidnapping of & ransom demand from Aryan Khan.— Nawab Malik نواب ملک नवाब मलिक (@nawabmalikncp) November 6, 2021
Now 2 S.I.Ts are constituted (state & centre), let us see who brings out the skeletons from the closet of Wankhede and exposes him and his nefarious private army
The Narcotics Control Bureau, in a statement released yesterday evening, and signed by Sanjay Singh, has stressed: "No officer or officers have been REMOVED from their present roles".
Shortly after news broke that the cases were being shifted, Mr Wankhede 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 is at the centre of a storm after accusations from Nawab Malik and Prabhakar Sail, a NCB witness in the Aryan Khan case, brought his record and 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 filed an affidavit saying he overheard a conversation between his employer KP Gosavi (another agency witness, whose selfie with Aryan after his arrest raised more questions about the NCB's case), SRK'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, and was told he would be given three days' notice in the event of an arrest order.
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, he questioned Mr Wankhede's honesty, pointing to "shirts worth Rs 50,000" and alleging WhatsApp chats between his sister and a 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 input from ANI