Two held for fleecing Covid patients desperate for oxygen cylinders
Two businessmen were arrested for allegedly hoarding oxygen cylinders and selling them at exorbitant rates in Delhi to desperate Covid-19 patients and their families, said police on Wednesday.
The suspects -- Abhishek Nanda (32) from Shalimar Bagh and Shrey Oberoi (30) from Vikaspuri -- allegedly sold cylinders for ₹50,000 each when their market price was only around ₹6,000 for a 10 litre cylinder, said police.
The high profit margin encouraged them to approach people posting SOS messages on social media for oxygen, said police. When informed of the scam, west Delhi’s Punjabi Bagh police said they deployed decoy customers to trap the suspects.
Four small oxygen cylinders each of 10 litres capacity and one large cylinder of capacity 67litres were seized from the suspects along with a Hyundai Verna car that they allegedly used to transport and deliver cylinders, said additional deputy commissioner of police (west) Prashant Priya Gautam.
DCP (crime) Monika Bhardwaj, also holding the additional charge of DCP (West), said Nanda and Oberoi were originally into the business of electrical equipment and toys, respectively.
“Their businesses were hit by the Covid pandemic and the curfew in Delhi that had been imposed for more than a week,” said Monika Bhardwaj. “For quick and easy money, Nanda sold the unused oxygen cylinders that he had arranged for Covid patients in his family.”
Soon Nanda saw an opportunity in the scarcity of oxygen cylinders in Delhi-NCR and involved Oberoi in a plan to make a profit, said another police officer associated with the probe but who did not wish to be named.
“Nanda’s job was to arrange oxygen cylinders, while Oberoi delivered them to people who he contacted over social media. At least two cylinders that they sold are currently being used to treat Covid patients at different places in Delhi,” said the officer.
The officer said the Punjabi Bagh police received information from a credible source about the duo’s operation. Their decoy customer convinced Oberoi to deliver two small cylinders to northwest Delhi’s Shalimar Bagh and agreed to pay ₹1 lakh for both, said the officer. Oberoi was arrested with the cylinders from Shalimar Bagh and his questioning led police to Nanda and recovered of three more oxygen cylinders from him, said the officer.
“We are now questioning them for the source of the cylinders. Efforts are on to recover more oxygen cylinders,” added DCP Bhardwaj.
On Tuesday, the Delhi Police asked its personnel to activate their intelligence network, keep a close watch on social media posts, visit scrap godowns, and use decoy customers to trap hoarders fleecing Covid patients and their kin. It came on a day when the Delhi high court said the government’s entire system has failed as black marketing of oxygen cylinders and crucial medicines was rampant.
“High demand for oxygen, injection, medicine etc; miscreants indulge in hoarding, black marketing, faking to deceive needy buyers. Seven cases registered with arrest of 21 persons and remdesivir, oxygen seized. Delhi Police is checking those cheating on social media to protect public interest,” the Delhi Police tweeted on Tuesday