khan: Aryan Khan’s WhatsApp chats became the starting point of drug probe, says NCB source

MUMBAI: When Narcotic Control Bureau (NCB) officials carried out a raid in the wee hours of October 2 on a Goa-bound luxury cruise, they had a list of about a dozen “suspects” who were allegedly either suppliers or consumers of banned substances.

‘Aryan Khan’ was one of the names on the list, but they had no idea at the time that it was the son of Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, an official privy to the developments told ET.

People in the know said that while no drug was found on Khan and he probably hadn’t consumed any at the time of the raid, technical evidence mainly in the form of WhatsApp chats and phone calls made a strong case against him.

“We went to the ship to raid the peddlers and consumers. Khan was apprehended at the boarding gate itself and drug was found on his friend, concealed in his shoe. While Khan might have not consumed it, there are chats that indicate that they were meant for the cruise party,” said a second official.

The agency in its possession has a series of group and individual chats of Khan which are “incriminating in nature”, this official claimed. However, some of these chats may not be connected to the seizure made on the cruise ship. “There are chats where he has acknowledged what he has received, also chats discussing abused substances. Post his disclosure, there have been fresh arrests and raids. So, the chats became the starting point of the probe, helping us string the conspiracy,” he said.

The agency is probing the network through the chats and also the financial trail. “It’s a complex work of linking the purchase and consumption. The financial trail is being investigated to ascertain if the period during which the discussions took place, if there were any purchases made and what was the payment mode,” explained another official.

Defence lawyers have contested the NCB’s allegations, arguing that mere chats could not be the reason to arrest someone.

On Wednesday, a special court in Mumbai will decide on Khan’s bail plea.

The people aware of the matter said cigarette rolling papers were among the items recovered from the ship. “The arrested organisers failed to explain what was the need to have cigarette papers. This clearly indicates that they were aware that drugs will be consumed,” said an official. “After the cruise sailed off, post the searches, the captain called us to inform us that he suspects that drugs were still consumed on the ship. Upon return, when the ship was raided, drugs were found.”

The agency has registered 95 cases in Mumbai so far this year, a three-fold rise from last year, the people said.

They argued that while the quantity of drugs seized might be small or big, the larger move is to try and nix the drug chain. After the case involving Bollywood actor Rhea Chakraborty, the agency has been flooded with inputs on peddlers and consumers, they said.

“These lead to seizure in small quantities but if we arrest or raid them, one supply network is disturbed and even if it’s for a brief period, it’s contributing to the larger picture of trying to eradicate the syndicates,” said one of the officials. “Drug trade thrives on a well-oiled ecosystem. It’s a complex web of independent chains all coiled up together so when you conduct a raid, you are only managing to disturb one of these many chains. So, we are continuously at it so that it creates a larger impact,” the official added.

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