Exactly a year after she was named an accused in the Rs 2,000 crore ephedrine drugs haul case, a special court declared former Bollywood actress Mamta Kulkarni and her husband Vicky Goswami "proclaimed offenders".
"It is pronounced and declared that the accused Vicky Goswami and Mamta Kulkarni are the proclaimed offenders. The immovable properties belonging to the accused be attached," ordered the Special NDPS (Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances) Court Judge H. M Patwardhan.
Accordingly, the Special Court has issued warrants under Section 82 of the Criminal Procedure Code, against the two prime accused - who are believed to be in Kenya's Mombasa city - in the case which has another eight accused and four absconders.
Police will now be required to submit, within 30 days, a compliance report on the Special Court's order, which comes a month after the Thane Police informed the court that the absconding couple failed to comply with a proclamation order requiring them to appear before the court.
Tuesday's development came nine months after Kulkarni, 45, denied all police allegations against her and claimed she was "innocent" and a "Yogini" (ascetic), in a recorded statement from Kenya.
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 to the two Union ministers.
Police said that Kulkarni's name was included in the FIR after the DEA provided evidences of involvement of Moroccan and Colombian drug mafia in the case and how the Goswami-Kulkarni couple attended certain drug smuggling meetings in January-April last year.
In April 2016, the Thane police effected a rich drugs haul from Mumbai, Thane and Solapur of around 18.5 tonnes of ephedrine and 2.5 tonnes of acetic anhydride, valued at more than Rs 2,000 crore, blowing the lid off a major international narcotics racket.
The police have nabbed a total of 10 accused in the case, besides probing another seven wanted accused.
According to the investigations, ephedrine intended was making medicines was allegedly smuggled to a pharma unit, Avon LifeSciences Ltd, Solapur and converted to narcotics, including a popular variety of a party drug.
Kulkarni's alleged involvement in the racket was confirmed by some of the accused in the case.
Those arrested in what is billed as India's biggest drugs haul 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.
The DEA later 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 11.50 tonnes of Mandrax but was released in November 2012 on grounds of good conduct.
In 2013, he married Kulkarni, now 45 and they have settled in Mombasa.
During 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.
(With IANS inputs)