Thane (Maharashtra): A Special NDPS Court here has ordered the confiscation of assets belonging to absconding former Bollywood actress Mamta Kulkarni, in connecting with a drugs smuggling case against her and her husband Vicky Goswami, an official said on Thursday.
Special Public Prosecutor Shishir Hirey said that the order was issued last week by Special Narcotics Drugs & Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Court Judge H. M. Patwardhan here in the narcotics case lodged against the former actress, her husband and several other accused-arrested.
The special court’s order is a fallout of one of the biggest operations in April 2016, when the Thane police busted a gang smuggling narcotic drugs worth around Rs 2,200 crore.
During the investigations of the case – which had international ramifications – the name of Mamta Kulkarni cropped up and subsequently, she was named one of the main accused in the case.
“However, despite repeated summons issued by the police and courts, she has failed to honour them and appear before the law. Thereafter, she and her husband were proclaimed as ‘absconders’ in June 2017. Later, the prosecution moved an application seeking seizure of her properties which has been accepted by the Special Court,” Hirey told IANS.
Accordingly, on April 17, Special Judge Patwardhan ordered the seizure of three flats in the posh Arshi Complex, Versova, Andheri suburb owned by her, which are collectively estimated to be valued at around Rs 20 crore.
During the raids, the Thane police seized 18.5 tonnes of ephedrine and 2.50 tonnes acetic anhydride, both banned drugs, worth collectively around Rs 2,200 crore, from the warehouse of pharmaceutical group, Avon LifeSciences Ltd., in Solapur.
According to the investigators, ephedrine intended for making medicines was allegedly smuggled to the pharma unit and converted to narcotics, including a popular variety of a party drug.
At least 10 accused have been arrested in the case, but Goswami and Mamta – both prime accused and currently believed to be living in Canada – have eluded the law so far.
Those arrested include: Nigerian Sipren Chinassa, who led police to other accused including Manoj Jain, director of BSE-listed Avon Lifesciences Ltd, Punit Shringi, Pradeep Gill, Sagar Powale, Mayur Sukdhare, Dhaneshwar Swamy and Dnyaneshwar Dhimri.
Then the US’s Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) joined in the probe and its officials met Thane police officers to get details as Goswami is allegedly wanted in the US.
Incidentally, Goswami and Kulkarni were detained by Kenyan authorities in 2014 on the charge of drug trafficking.
Goswami, 52, was earlier imprisoned for 25 years in the United Arab Emirates in 1997 for trafficking around 11.5 tonnes of mandrax but was released in November 2012 on grounds of good conduct.
In 2013, he married Kulkarni and then they settled in Kenya’s Mombasa.
In late 2016, Kulkarni, in a recorded statement from Kenya, denied all police allegations against her and claimed she was “innocent” and a “Yogini” (ascetic).
She also said she had written to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju, asking them to order an inquiry against the Maharashtra Police for dragging her name into the drugs case.
“I have never engaged in any act contrary to the principles of Indian statutes and am a victim of high-handedness, crude, unprofessional and unethical conspiracy by the officers of the US’s Drug Enforcement Administration and the Thane police,” she said in her plea.
A leading actress in the 1990s, Kulkarni was paired with some of the top Bollywood stars including Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Akshay Kumar. She had participated in a TV show and bagged a Femina award too.