Three popular Bollywood actresses were questioned yesterday in a drug probe that has sent shockwaves through Bollywood, already hurt by Covid-19 lockdowns.
Officials from the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) have been investigating alleged drug use in Bollywood for the last month in connection with the death of Sushant Singh Rajput, a popular actor who was found dead at his residence in June.
The investigation aims at finding whether there is a nexus between the film industry and the drug trade, a law enforcement official said.
Actresses Deepika Padukone, Shraddha Kapoor and Sara Ali Khan were questioned by the NCB for several hours. The NCB also questioned Padukone’s former manager Karishma Prakash.
According to NCB sources, Padukone and Prakash were “evasive” on alleged procurement of drugs as indicated in an alleged chat of October 2017.
Padukone, who arrived at the NCB office before 10am, left around 3.30pm.
Prakash, who deposed for the second time yesterday at 10.45am, also left around 3.30pm.
The NCB has got details of the alleged chats of Padukone and Prakash from October 2017 in which the two were discussing drugs and planned to meet at Club Koko.
Shraddha Kapoor, who appeared at the NCB office around 11.45am, left at 6pm.
Sara Khan arrived at the NCB office around 1pm and was questioned for over four-and-half hours.
Kapoor’s name cropped up after her alleged chat with Rajput’s former manager Jaya Saha asking for CBD oil.
Troubles for Khan mounted after Rajput’s girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty, in a television interview, claimed the late actor caught the habit of smoking marijuana while shooting for the film Kedarnath.
Khan starred with Rajput in the film.
Padukone was issued a summons on Wednesday when she was shooting in Goa.
She arrived in Mumbai on Thursday and was set to appear on Friday.
But on the request of her legal team, the NCB postponed it to yesterday.
“We have taken their statements. They will not be summoned again,” an NCB officer indicated, while declining to share the outcome of their grilling.
The NCB had recorded the statement of another actress Rakul Preet Singh and Prakash on Friday.
Also yesterday, the NCB arrested Kshitij Ravi Prasad, a former executive of top producer Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions.
“He will be presented before a court tomorrow. Details will be put before the court,” an NCB official said.
The NCB has questioned several other well-known people connected to the industry, including producers, talent managers and a fashion designer.
The Rs191bn ($2.59bn) film industry has been struggling with a lean year, as theatres remain shut due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mumbai police initially reported Rajput’s death as accidental and media called it a suicide, but the Central Bureau of Investigation is now probing whether there was foul play.
On September 8 the NCB arrested Chakraborty, accusing her of being “active in a drug syndicate connected with drug supplies.”
Chakraborty, who remains in jail in Mumbai, has denied wrongdoing.
Her lawyer, Satish Maneshinde, called the arrest “a travesty of justice”.
In a related development, the Mumbai police warned media against pursuing the cars of celebrities who are being summoned for the drugs probe.
“This afternoon, we saw some mediapersons chasing the vehicles from the rear, front, sides, getting off their vehicles, posing great risk to themselves, the people in the vehicles and also the common persons. We will not tolerate this anymore,” said an officer.
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