Stars suspects in Mumbai drug racket


A Bollywood actor who was worked as leading roles in several movies in the late ’80s-early ’90s, a TV actress and two other small-time actors are under the investigation of the Thane police in an ephedrine haul case.

Investigators had on April 17 found 20 tones of the controlled substance, allegedly meant to be diverted to an international drug cartel for the manufacture of the party drug methamphetamine, or meth, in a defunct factory in Solapur.

 Bollywood actor Mamta Kulkarni and her partner, drug lord Vicky Goswami and the other three actors attended a meeting earlier this year at a well-known five-star hotel in Juhu. Also present at the meeting were Jay Mukhi and Kishore Rathod, who are among the main accused in the drug bust case. Investigators confirmed .

Police believe the meeting was to discuss supply of mephedrone to film industry circles. Mephedrone, also known as Meow Meow, is considered a cheaper substitute for cocaine, and is in high demand in Mumbai. Police sources said they are waiting to gather more evidence before they summon the actors for questioning.

A Thane police officer said the Bollywood actor knew Goswami since the 1990s. “He had visited the opening ceremony of a chain of hotels owned by Goswami in Dubai, along with other top actors of the day, in the 1990s,” the officer said.

Referring to the meeting held earlier this year, the officer said, “There seems to be no apparent reason for the four actors to meet the two accused. We have a tip-off that the discussions were about smuggling of mephedrone. We are probing if this link was used to supply drugs in Mumbai and, specifically, to Bollywood.”

A senior officer said the Thane police have contacted the hotel seeking CCTV footage for the last three months. “But they told us they have data only for the last one month. We have told them we need footage of three months, and we will also write to them formally,” the officer said.

Investigators are likely to question Mukhi about the meeting and subsequently summon the actors. “Mukhi is currently in Gujarat police custody. We may seek his custody again to question him about this particular meeting. Before this meeting, the accused had gone to Kenya for a meeting with Goswami and Kulkarni for supply of drugs there. In April, he had a meeting in Burj  Khalifa with a Moroccan cartel. We suspect this meeting (with the actors) was about supply of drugs to the city and, specifically, to Bollywood,” an officer said.

Police have also contacted the family of Rathod, who is on the run, to see if they can help track him down and provide clues about the meeting. Police have also summoned Goswami’s sister Ritaben in connection with Rs 2 crore that was allegedly transferred to her Gujarat account by Kulkarni. “We are in the process of freezing Ritaben’s account,” an officer said.

Thane police have so far arrested 10 people for allegedly diverting ephedrine to drug cartels that use it to make meth. Seven people, including Kulkarni and Goswami, have been named as wanted accused in the case.

The case unravelled after the interrogation of a Nigerian drug peddler by the Thane police in April led investigators to the offices of Avon Lifesciences Limited at Solapur, where they found over 20 tonnes of ephedrine. Police believe that the ephedrine, a controlled substance used to make medicines, was being diverted from the company to a drug cartel in Africa, headed by Goswami, that was using it to cook meth and supply it to the US and some European countries.