In a series of shocking revelations, a senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader on Wednesday alleged that two Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) activists, including a ‘vice-president’, were involved in the raid conducted by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) on the luxury ship Cordelia Cruise on October 2.
NCP national spokesperson and state Minority Affairs Minister Nawab Malik slammed the NCB operations, terming it as a ‘fraud’ in which BJP leader Manish Bhanushali and a so-called ‘private detective’ Kiran P. Gosavi were seen hauling out some of the accused, including Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan and Arbaaz Merchant.
Simultaneously, Shiv Sena leader Kishore Tiwari, who has been accorded MoS rank, demanded the arrest of NCB Zonal Director Sameer Wankhede, while Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant urged the Maha Vikas Aghadi government to order a high-level independent probe into Malik’s allegations, which are of ‘extremely serious’ nature.
On its part, the NCB’s Deputy Director Gyaneshwar Singh admitted on Wednesday that the duo – Bhanushali and Gosavi – was among more than half-a-dozen of its ‘independent witnesses’ during the agency’s swoop on the deluxe vessel berthed at the International Cruise Terminal.
Malik had earlier said that Bhanushali had posted his photos with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP President J.P. Nadda, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, state Leader of Opposition (Assembly) Devendra Fadnavis, plus current and former Central and state ministers, as well as other senior BJP leaders.
He said that Bhanushali was in New Delhi and Gandhinagar in the last week of September, especially on September 21-22 when a huge drug haul was made from the Mundhra Port in Gujarat.
“The BJP should tell the people who is this person and how does he have access to such top people? The NCB must clarify in what capacity these two persons (Gosavi and Bhanushali) were seen during the so-called raid and arrests. Gosavi also has a criminal record in Pune. Is the NCB taking help of people with a criminal background to nab other accused,” Malik asked.
Reacting sharply, BJP’s Leaders of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis (Assembly) and Pravin Darekar (Council) promptly dismissed Malik’s contentions and said that he was levelling the allegations out of ‘frustration’ as his son-in-law Sameer Khan was nabbed by the NCB in January 2021.
Attacking the NCB, Malik contended that the entire (raid) operation was fraudulent, which was carried out with the sole purpose of hogging publicity, as no drugs were found from the arrested persons, neither was any panchnama done.
“In the past few days, rumours are being circulated that Shah Rukh Khan will be the next target. You know the relations between him and the BJP,” Malik said, supporting his claims with a audio-video presentation.
“The BJP and the NCB must come clear. Who are these two persons and why were they seen in the so-called ship raid? Both these persons are fake, and the NCB raid was a fraud intended only for grabbing publicity. What are the BJP’s connections with both of them,” Malik asked.
A bearded and bespectacled Bhanushali, sporting a maroon shirt, was seen dragging out Merchant and the bald Gosavi was seen pulling Aryan Khan out of the International Cruise Terminal late on Saturday, shocking the country and rattling the entertainment industry.
Speaking to a private Marathi TV channel, Bhanushali said that he had given the tip-off about the rave party to the NCB and was accompanying them as a ‘witness’ to affix his signature on the relevant case papers. He also warned of filing defamation proceedings against Malik.
Malik reiterated that since the past one year after the death of Sushant Singh Rajput, the NCB is only targeting high-profile film personalities, and raids are carried out with an eye on hogging publicity, defaming the Maha Vikas Aghadi government and instilling fear in the minds of Bollywood people.
Accusing the NCB of not adhering to its mandate of busting inter-state or international narcotics rackets, he said the agency only guns for high-profile celebrities to get publicity.