ED raids labs in fake Covid-19 testing scam unearthed at Mahakumbh
After registering a money laundering case in connection with the fake Covid-19 testing scam during the Mahakumbh, the Enforcement Directorate on Friday conducted raids at the offices of various laboratories.
Among the premises raided were Novus Path Labs, DNA Labs, Max Corporate Services, Dr. Lal Chandani Labs Pvt. Ltd; and Nalwa Laboratories Pvt. Ltd. and the residential premises of their Directors at Dehradun, Haridwar, Delhi, Noida and Hisar in connection with the fake Covid-19 tests carried out during the Kumbh Mela at Haridwar, a statement issued by the ED on Friday read.
The agency has launched a probe under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) on the basis of the FIR (first information report) registered by the Uttarakhand Police.
During the money laundering investigation, it was revealed that the labs were given the contract by the Uttarakhand government for conducting Rapid Antigen Test/RT-PCR tests to detect the Covid-19 viral infection during the Kumbh Mela, 2021.
“These laboratories hardly carried out any Covid-19 tests (Rapid Antigen Test and RT-PCR Test), but made fake entries for testing and raised bogus bills in order to make illegal financial gains,” the ED added.
It said that an amount of ₹3.4 crore had already been received by them from the Uttarakhand government as part payment.
“Modus operandi used by these labs was that these labs used a single mobile number/false mobile number/single address/ same Specimen Referral Form (SRF) for multiple people for showing the inflated numbers of Covid-19 testing without actually testing. Investigation further revealed that testing was claimed to be done in the name of people, who never visited the Kumbh Mela,” the ED statement added.
“Due to false negative testing by these labs, the positivity rate of Haridwar at that time was shown at 0.18% against the actual 5.3%. During the search proceedings, the ED seized incriminating documents, bogus bills, laptops, mobile phones and property documents. Searches resulted in seizure of cash to the tune of Rs. 30.9 lakh,” it added.
The agency said the searches were still going on in the matter till filing of this report.
Allegations of fake testing surfaced at the Kumbh after a Faridkot resident complained to the authorities that he received a message for collecting his Covid-19 report despite never having been tested. The complaint triggered a probe that unearthed roughly 100,000 fake rapid antigen tests.
Three firms – Lalchandani Lab, Nalwa Lab, and Noida-based private agency Max Corporate Services – have been booked under the Indian Penal Code, Disaster Management Act, and Epidemic Diseases Act by the Uttarakhand police in the matter.
Calls made to offices of Novus Path Labs, DNA Labs, Max Corporate Services and Dr Lal Chandani Labs remained unanswered. An official at Nalwa labs in Hisar, who didn’t identify himself, said, “ED took whatever they had to. They also recorded our statements.”