Written by Sadaf Modak
, Mohamed Thaver
| Mumbai |
Updated: September 27, 2020 9:29:25 pm
Karan Johar had said that he does not know Prasad personally and that he or Dharma Productions cannot “be made responsible for what people do in their personal lives”. (Express Photo by Dilip Kagda)Kshitij Prasad, a former executive producer of Dharmatic Entertainment, the sister concern of Dharma Productions owned by Karan Johar, arrested by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), told a court in Mumbai on Sunday that he was made to falsely implicate Johar or other executives of the film production company by officials of the agency.
Deputy DG NCB (South West) Mutha Ashok Jain refuted the allegations, and said the investigations were being carried out in a “professional manner”.
Prasad (30), who was part of Dharmatic Entertainment in November 2019, was arrested on Saturday in connection with an FIR filed to investigate alleged drug use in Bollywood, with the NCB claiming that a “roll joint believed to be remains of smoked ganja” were seized from his house. The NCB told the court that according to the statement of another accused in the case, Prasad had made bank and cash payments to the tune of Rs 3,500 each time for the purchase of ganja around 12 times between May and July 2020.
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Prasad was produced through video-conference before the metropolitan magistrate on Sunday. Lawyer Satish Maneshinde said that he informed the court about Prasad being “harassed and blackmailed” to make a statement.
The lawyer said that Prasad had told the court that his statement was recorded by Sameer Wankhede, in-charge of the Mumbai unit of the NCB, “wherein various patently false claims were inserted despite his protests”, and the statement was not recorded as per his narration.
Maneshinde said that Prasad was not told whether he was being placed under arrest nor was he permitted to speak to his lawyer, but was told that he would have to stay the night at the NCB office on Friday as his statement was yet to be completed.
“The NCB officers apart from Sameer Wankhede were courteous to Kshitij and provided him with a comfortable sleeping arrangement. The next morning when his statement recording resumed, Kshitij was categorically informed by Sameer Wankhede in the presence of several other officers that since he was associated with Dharma Productions, they would let him off if he implicated Karan Johar. Kshitij refused to comply with this despite the pressure being mounted on him as he did not know any of these people personally and did not wish to falsely implicate anyone,” Maneshinde said.
Wankhede refuted the allegations against him, and said that “it is a routine practice on the part of the accused to make such allegations”.
Speaking on allegations about Kshitij being asked to implicate Johar and others, Deputy DG Jain said: “The investigation is being carried out in a professional manner and there is no intended target other than what is revealed during the investigation. The allegations are absolutely untrue.”
The NCB while seeking Prasad’s custody in court on Sunday submitted that arrested accused Ankuh Arneja had said in his statement that he supplied hashish to Prasad through accused Sanket Patel on various occasions. Patel, who was arrested and granted bail, is claimed to have told the NCB that he delivered 50 grams of ganja to Prasad outside his residence in Andheri around 12 times from May to July 2020. The NCB claimed that it had seized the “remains of smoked ganja” and certain documents and gadgets from his home. It claimed that Prasad is “indirectly connected with accused Anuj Keshwani from whom commercial quantity of narcotics was seized”.
“Therefore, it is necessay to interrogate in deep as to whom he was delivering contraband in Bollywood,” the NCB said in its remand application. NCB also told the court that Prasad was not cooperating with the probe and sought his custody till October 5.
Metropolitan Magistrate V J Dongre said in his order granting the NCB his custody till October 3 that due to the serious nature of the offence, detailed custodial interrogation of the accused is “justifiable to reveal the truth”. It also said that Prasad had not complained about any physical ill-treatment.
Maneshinde said that Prasad had told the court that due to his refusal, he was made to sit on the floor with Wankhede putting his shoe near Prasad’s face, which “traumatised” him. Maneshinde said that as he was “extremely fatigued and shaken” after 48 hours of being in custody, he requested to be allowed to speak to a lawyer or family member.
“Sameer Wankhede informed him that if he wished to be granted a call, he should sign the statement they had prepared which he could retract later. Kshitij was unaware of the legalities involved and had never even come across this term of ‘retraction of statement’. Sameer Wankhede then informed him that if he did not sign the statement, the pressure would continue to mount and he would not be given access to his family or lawyer. At the end of nearly 50 hours of interrogation, humiliation and torment, Kshitij is his desperation to speak to his lawyer or family, unwillingly and under threats signed the statement,” Maneshinde said.
NCB sources confirmed that Kshitij had been called in for questioning on Friday and had been detained. He was placed under arrest on Saturday.
On Saturday, a statement released by Johar had said that he does not know Prasad personally and that he or Dharma Productions cannot “be made responsible for what people do in their personal lives”.
“These allegations do not pertain to Dharma Productions,” the statement said.
So far, 20 have been arrested in the case including actor Rhea Chakraborty.
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