Actor Sushant Singh Rajput's cook Dipesh Sawant told the Narcotics Control Bureau on Saturday that he saw Mr Rajput smoke marijuana (ganja) in September 2018.
Sawant, who was arrested by the agency yesterday as part of a probe into allegations of drug abuse surrounding the actor's death in June, claimed he never purchased marijuana for his employer, but another member of the domestic staff - one Rishikesh Pawar - "used to bring ganja for Sushant sir".
In an extensive "voluntary statement" given to the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), Sawant also said that another man - whom he identified as Abbas Khalooi - "was preparing ganja or charas for Sushant sir and also smoke(d) with him".
"... I inform you that after two-three days of my joining in the month of September 2018 I saw him (Sushant Singh Rajput) smoke weed/ganja and charas. One day I asked Ashok bhai (Mr Rajput's cook) (if) Sushant sir smokes weed. He said yes...," Sawant said in his statement.
"... told (me) that Karan, I don't know his full name, was first time serve ganja or charas for Sushant sir," he added.
"During that period, I never brought ganja for Sushant sir, but one of my colleagues Rishikesh Pawar used to bring ganja for Sushant sir," Sawant said.
On Sunday afternoon news agency ANI quoted the NCB as saying that based on Sawant's statement and digital evidence, it was "clear" that Dipesh Sawant was "an active member of (a) drug syndicate connected with high society personalities and drug suppliers".
On the basis of statements of Dipesh Sawant, house help of late actor #SushantSinghRajput, & digital evidence collected by NCB, it's clear that Dipesh is an active member of drug syndicate connected with high society personalities & drug suppliers: Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB). pic.twitter.com/B8jGMu0j0Z— ANI (@ANI) September 6, 2020
According to another report by ANI, Sawant collected and delivered a total of 165 grams of ganja (from four different alleged dealers) between March and June 2020.
This was allegedly on the instructions of both Rhea Chakraborty and her brother Showik. The last of these pick-ups was 100 grams in the first week of June from Rishikesh Pawar.
The NCB registered an interest in this case after WhatsApp chats between Rhea Chakraborty (Mr Rajput's girlfriend, who has been accused by his family of mentally harassing him) and a contact saved as "Miranda Sushi" (believed to be Mr Rajput's house manager Samuel Miranda) - about procuring drugs.
Ms Chakraborty, 28, who has denied taking drugs and told NDTV she tried to stop Mr Rajput, 34, from consuming marijuana, was today questioned by the NCB.
Her brother, Showik Chakraborty, was arrested and sent to the agency's custody yesterday, after it claimed to have evidence linking him to the purchase of marijuana.
The agency said Mr Chakraborty and Sanuel Miranda (Mr Rajput's house manager) bought drugs from alleged dealers Kaizan Ibrahim and Zaid Vilatra via middleman Abdul Basit Parihar; all three have also been arrested.
The NCB has also searched Mr Chakraborty's home (he lives with his sister) and that of Mr Miranda's, but no drugs have been recovered, so far.
The agency's case hinges on the discovery of 59 grams of curated marijuana from two men identified as Abbas Lakhani and Karan Arora, and their alleged links to Mr Rajput.
Ms Chakraborty, who is facing a "witch hunt", according to her lawyer, has been repeatedly targeted by sections of the media and public over her alleged role in Mr Rajput's death. She has also been targeted by Mr Rajput's family, who claim she illegally transferred crores from his Mumbai bank account - the Enforcement Directorate (ED) is looking into these claims.
However, despite the several repeated allegations involving Ms Chakraborty, the only arrests in the case, so far, have come from the angle of drugs possession.
The NCB, which usually probes cases involving several kilograms of contraband, has also admitted that arrests over such small amounts of marijuana are uncommon.
Rhea Chakraborty has also spoken out about the mental strain of being investigated by three separate central agencies (the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate have also registered interest) in a case that has also led to a huge political row.
With input from ANI