Rhea facilitated drug purchase and use: NCB

Rhea facilitated drug purchase and use: NCB

The Narcotics Control Bureau filed a chargesheet Friday against 33 people including actor Rhea Chakraborty, her brother Showik, Agisilaos Demetriades who is the brother of actor Arjun Rampal’s partner, and Kshitij Prasad, executive producer of Dharmatic Entertainment, a sister concern of Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions, in an alleged drug case filed after the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput last year.

In its 11,700-page chargesheet filed in a Special NDPS Court, the NCB claimed that a packet of ganja (marijuana) was delivered for Rajput at the Santacruz residence of Rhea in November 2019. And because she took its delivery, facilitated its consumption by Rajput and made payments, that made her an active member of the drug syndicate, it said.

The NCB claimed that the drug delivery was made with Rhea’s consent, that she facilitated the use of her house for drug consumption, thereby violating provisions of the NDPS Act. Since Rhea provided funds for the drug purchase, she financed an activity related to illicit drug dealings, the NCB claimed.

The NCB opened a probe into the case after the Enforcement Directorate shared alleged chats found on Rhea’s phone.

While no arrest was made in the initial case it filed, the NCB began arresting alleged city drug peddlers last August in a separate case, and they, according to the NCB, led the agency to Rhea and others.

Rhea and her brother are currently out on bail.

In remand applications earlier, the NCB had claimed that it wanted to “uproot the drug citadel in Mumbai especially Bollywood”.

In the chargesheet, the NCB has relied on WhatsApp chats, audio notes between the accused where they are alleged to be discussing purchase, payment and delivery of drugs including ganja and bud for Rajput, subsequent bank transactions, call data records, locations and statements of the accused.

Incidentally, a Supreme Court judgment last October rendered such statements, seen as confessions recorded before an NCB officer, as inadmissible evidence, stating that it cannot be the sole proof to convict an accused.

The NCB has included the statements and its contents in the chargesheet. The agency said that the statements by themselves are inadmissible but will be corroborated through other evidence including chats and bank transactions.

It claimed that drugs were purchased by Rajput through Rhea, Showik, his manager Samuel Miranda and his cook Dipesh Sawant and that Rajput and Rhea paid for it.

It alleged that there were bank transactions up to Rs 7000 between Showik and other alleged drug dealers.

Among the chats annexed to the chargesheet by the NCB are alleged conversations between them from March to May 2020, regarding the availability of ‘hash’, ‘bud’, ‘maal’, ‘green’, ‘stash’. An alleged conversation between Showik and Miranda from March 17, 2020, discusses getting ‘bags of weed’ for Rajput with payment sought to be made from Rhea’s card. As evidence, the NCB claimed that a transaction showed the withdrawal of Rs 10,000 cash from Rhea’s account via an ATM the same day.

The Bombay High Court, while deciding the bail application of Rhea, had said that simply providing money for a particular transaction cannot be considered as financing of that activity, and Rhea spending money in procuring drugs for Rajput, therefore, will not mean that she financed illicit traffic to charge her under Section 27A of the Act.

The NCB has charged the accused under Section 8 (c) read with 20 (b) (ii) (A), 22, 27, 27A, 28, 29 and 30 of the NDPS Act. These pertain to production, manufacture, sale, purchase, transport, consumption of any narcotic drug, use and possession of cannabis and psychotropic substances, financing illicit traffic and harbouring offenders as well as abetment and criminal conspiracy, attempt and preparation of committing an offence.

The NCB claimed that while no drug was seized from 20 accused, including Rhea and Showik, commercial drug quantities were seized from others including accused Anuj Keshwani, who remains in custody.

The NCB has included statements of 160 witnesses, mostly independent witnesses present at the time of arrest, seizures and recoveries. It has also provided over 50,000 pages as annexure in form of a CD along with the chargesheet which includes over 3000 pages of WhatsApp chats between the accused.

The chargesheet also names Abbas Lakhani, Karn Arora, Zaid Vilatra, Abdel Basit Parihar, Kaizan Ebrahim, Sanket Patel, Karamjeet Anand, Dwayne Fernandes, Sandeep Gupta, Aftab Ansari, Crist Perreira, Suryadeep Malhotra, Rahil Vishram, Jai Madhok, Sahil Ali, Nikhil Saldanha, Paul Bartel, Ginendra Jain, Mohammed Azam Shaikh, Anug Ghughe, Yen Valavalkar, Rishikesh Pawar, Jagtap Anand, Rahila Furniturewala and Karan Sajnani as accused.

Eight of the arrested accused remain in custody while the others have been granted bail by the court. The accused will be provided copies of the chargesheet after it is verified by the court. The NCB said it will continue its probe.

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