Sushant case: ED questions Goa hotelier; NCB continues probe

04:44 PM Aug 31, 2020 | PTI |
Mumbai: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Monday, August 31 questioned a Goa-based hotelier, Gaurav Arya, in connection with a money-laundering probe linked to the death of the actor Sushant Singh Rajput, officials said. Arya arrived at the central probe agency's office here in the Ballard Estate area around 10:30 AM accompanied by his legal team. "The ED had summoned Arya last week to join the probe after it recovered some mobile phone messages reportedly sent by actor and Rajput's live-in partner Rhea Chakraborty to him in 2017 and they purportedly indicated discussion of certain banned narcotics," officials had said. "The agency will record his statement under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA)," they said. Arya, who runs two hotels in Goa, had earlier told news channels that he has never dealt in narcotics and his last interaction with Rhea was about three years ago, adding he will "comply" with all legal procedures. He had also said that he never met Rajput, 34, who was allegedly found hanging at his duplex flat in the Bandra area of Mumbai on June 14. "The agency is looking at the money laundering angle in this case and hence all conversations and entities that are linked to the matter are required to be questioned to establish facts and to find out if any criminality is involved," a senior ED official had said. The ED has also recently intimated the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) about these purported drugs-linked chats which it recovered after 'cloning' two mobile phones of Rhea. It has already recorded Rhea's version, under the PMLA, about these chats that purportedly indicate procurement of banned drugs. Rhea, 28, the main accused in the case, her father Indrajit Chakraborty, brother Showik and multiple staff members of her and Rajput have been grilled by the ED till now. She is also being questioned by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the Santacruz area for the fourth time on Monday apart from few others who worked for Rajput. The ED has questioned two out of Rajput's four sisters and his father, KK Singh. "It is going to question a few more people who are linked to Rajput and Rhea during this week," officials said. Meanwhile, the NCB, the third federal agency probing the circumstances surrounding the death of the actor, is investigating the overall network of drug syndicates, suppliers, and couriers who operate in Mumbai and some adjoining western India states like Goa. The NCB is mandated with an "overarching charter" to check narcotics cartels and suppliers. Hence, it is probing a larger "criminal conspiracy and contravention of anti-narcotics laws" that includes the present case where Rhea and others have been allegedly found messaging about procurement and consumption of certain banned drugs, they said. It had also arrested two persons last week for allegedly dealing in marijuana (weed) but sources said the action was not linked to this probe. A special NCB team from Mumbai, led by Deputy Director (operations) K P S Malhotra, is stationed in Mumbai for the probe. The ED case under the PMLA stems from an FIR filed by Rajput's father on July 25 with the Bihar Police in Patna against Rhea, her father, mother Sandhya Chakraborty, Showik, Rajput's manager Samuel Miranda and Shruti Modi and unknown persons, accusing them of cheating and abetting his son's suicide. Rajput's father has also alleged financial irregularities in his complaint to the police. Singh had alleged that an amount of Rs 15 crore was siphoned off from Rajput's bank account in one year to accounts of persons not known or connected to the late actor. However, the ED has not found any direct transaction made from Rajput's account to that of Rhea except an instance where it intercepted a mobile phone message where Rhea allegedly talks about obtaining details of a debit card used by the late actor from his house manager Samuel Miranda. Some cash deals in this case are also under the scanner of the agency. Rhea has maintained that she "never consumed" any banned narcotics and that she will cooperate with all the probe agencies as a law-abiding citizen.

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