Police raid Khan Market restaurants, seize O2 devices
A day after 419 oxygen concentrators were seized from Nege & Ju, a restaurant-cum-bar in Lodhi Colony, and private company Matrix Cellular’s godown in Chattarpur, Delhi Police said on Friday that they raided Khan Chacha and Town Hall restaurants in Khan Market and recovered 105 more concentrators.
According to Delhi Police, these restaurants are owned by Navneet Kalra, a businessman who also owns Dayal Opticals. Police said Kalra was avoiding cooperating with the investigation since the raids were conducted at his restaurants and oxygen concentrators seized.
“With further seizure of 105 #OxygenConcentrator from Khan Chacha & Town Hall, 2 upscale restaurants in Khan Mkt, total 524 seized frm #blackmarketers Owner Navneet Kalra, also owns Dayal Opticals, is on run. Manager, 3 staffers arrested by #DelhiPolice SouthDist. Further raids on,” the Delhi Police tweeted on Friday from its Twitter handle.
“We tried contacting Kalra but his cellphone is switched off and he is absconding. Notices will be served to the management of all the three restaurants to join the investigation and explain their role in the entire hoarding and black-marketing of oxygen concentrators and as to why 96 such concentrators were stored in their restaurant,” said deputy commissioner of police (south) Atul Kumar Thakur.
In a late evening development, the 47-year-old chief executive officer (CEO) of Matrix Cellular, Gaurav Khanna, who is a resident of Gurugram, was arrested in connection with the seizure of oxygen concentrators from his company’s godown in Chhatarpur, DCP Thakur said.
A senior office-bearer of the Khan Market Traders Association, who did not wish to be identified, confirmed that all three restaurants – Khan Chacha, Town Hall and Nege & Ju – are owned by Kalra. Khan Chacha restaurant’s website has Kalra’s name in the “About us” section. In the “Celeb Presence” section, he is seen inside the eatery with cricketers and Bollywood actors.
While 96 oxygen concentrators were seized from Khan Chacha, another nine were found illegally stored at Town Hall. The fresh recoveries were made following the interrogation of four people, whose arrests along with the recovery of 419 concentrators were made public by the south district police on Thursday. With this, the total recovery made in the case, which is being probed by the Lodhi Colony police station, now stands at 524, the retail price value of which is around ₹1.04 crore. A concentrator costing between ₹20,000 and ₹50,000 is being sold for between ₹70,000 and ₹1.25 lakh in the black market, the police said.
Senior police officers said they were probing a nexus between the restaurant owner and the private company in hoarding and black-marketing of oxygen concentrators, a device whose demand soared following the steep rise in Covid-19 cases in the ongoing second wave.
HT tried to contact Kalra, Matrix Cellular and the restaurants (Nege & Ju, Town Hall and Khan Chacha) on Friday through phone calls and text messages through Thursday and Friday but there was no response till the time of going to press.
Social media users commented extensively on the development. “I feel sorry for poor Khan Chacha & his family. First they lost the use of their name to Navneet Kalra & now they are being dragged through the mud for no fault of theirs because Kalra was using his eateries to store concentrators allegedly for sale on the black market,” tweeted Omar Abdullah, former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir and vice-president of the Jammu Kashmir National Conference (JKNC).
The police on Thursday said that they had arrested four persons in connection with the raids on Nege & Ju and Matrix cellular. They were identified as Hitesh, manager of Nege & Ju, and three employees of Matrix Cellular – Gaurav, Satish Sethi and Vikrant.
“To portray that the machines were being sold at a fair price, stickers carrying fake maximum retail prices (MRPs) were pasted on them. The concentrators costing about ₹20,000 each were sold for as much as nearly ₹70,000,” Thakur had said on Thursday.
A senior police officer privy to the developments said, requesting anonymity, that the investigation so far has revealed that people involved in the nexus were into the illegal trade of oxygen concentrators since October and had already sold many such devices.
The officer said they are probing the role of the three arrested Matrix Cellular employees for allegedly getting the concentrators from outside India.
In a separate raid, a Greater Kailash police station team arrested two individuals, Saeed and Muqueem, and seized 3,486 digital thermometers, 10 oxygen concentrators, 263 digital gun thermometers, 684 oximeters and 10 nebulizers, allegedly meant for sale in the black market.