Hoarding of oxygen devices: Look-out circular against Khan Market restaurateur
The Delhi Police said on Monday a look-out-circular (LoC) has been issued against restaurateur Navneet Kalra over the recovery of 524 oxygen concentrators from three of his restaurants – Khan Chacha, Town Hall and Nege & Ju – and from the office of a private company, Matrix Cellular, last week.
Kalra has been on the run since the recoveries of the concentrators between Wednesday and Friday, according to investigators. He could not be tracked despite raids being conducted in Delhi and in adjoining states such as Uttarakhand, the police said.
“As Kalra has been absconding in the case, we approached the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) and got a look-out-circular issued against him. In addition to that, our teams have been conducting raids Delhi and many other states to arrest him,” said Delhi Police spokesperson Chinmoy Biswal. The Delhi FRRO is the concerned authority through which the police request the Intelligence Bureau and the immigration department to sound an alert to all Indian airports.
A police officer with knowledge of the matter said investigation will also focus on allegations that some of the oxygen concentrators were defective. “At least 3-4 people have informed police that the supplied concentrators were defective. They even asked for the refund of their money but the accused persons refused. We will include their statements as part of the probe,” the officer said on condition of anonymity.
Another officer, who asked not to be named, said they will also probe the role of Gaggan Duggal, the owner of Matrix Cellular. The officer said preliminary investigation showed it was Duggal, who is currently not in the country, who got the concentrators imported and later passed it on to Kalra to sell it. His firm offers international SIM cards in several countries.
On Monday, Kalra moved a city court seeking anticipatory bail in the alleged cheating and criminal conspiracy case that was registered at the Lodhi Colony police station last week. The court, however, refused to grant interim relief to Kalra and said that the matter will be heard on Tuesday. The case is being probed by the crime branch of the Delhi Police.
Appearing for Kalra, his counsel Vineet Malhotra said his client is being “hounded”. In his plea, Kalra has said he is innocent and is being implicated on account of business and personal rivalry with third parties.
Investigations have so far revealed that for each concentrator that was brought in from China, Kalra and his partners made a profit of at least ₹55,000.
“We have evidence which shows the oxygen concentrators were bought for ₹14,000-15,000 and sold at ₹70,000-75,000. Since October, they brought nearly 7,500 concentrators. More than 2,000 concentrators were sold in Delhi. There is also an audio clip in which he is heard discussing the rates of the concentrators,” an investigator said on condition of anonymity.
The officer added that Kalra was last spotted by his employees at his farmhouse in Chhatarpur on Saturday night. The police have information that he left the farmhouse with his family members at around 10 pm. He did not take his driver along.
“We conducted raids at the farmhouse but he was not there. His driver was also there, which means he drove the vehicle himself. His wife was also not at home,” the officer said, adding that they have information that he may be hiding in Uttarakhand.
The police have so far arrested five people, including the manager of Nege & Ju restaurant, Hitesh, and four senior officials of Matrix Cellular – Gourav Khanna, the chief executive officer (CEO), Gaurav, who is the business head, Sathish Sethi, the manager, and Vikrant, a sales executive in the company. Khanna was the last person to be arrested from Gurugram on Friday. He has been sent to jail after his police custody period was over, the police said.
The police said Kalra was the main player behind the alleged hoarding and black marketing of oxygen concentrators, which were imported from China and Hong Kong and sold at exorbitant prices.
“To portray that the oxygen concentrators 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,” deputy commissioner of police (south) Atul Kumar Thakur said on Thursday.
The first raid was conducted at Nege & Ju restaurant in Lodhi Colony and 32 oxygen concentrators along with one carton of thermal scanners and one carton of N95 masks was recovered. The police arrested the restaurant manager, Hitesh, and three other people from there. Their interrogation led to the recovery of 387 more concentrators from the registered office of Matrix Cellular in Chhatarpur.
Further interrogation of Hitesh led to the recovery of 96 oxygen concentrators from Khan Chacha restaurant and nine from Town Hall restaurant – both in Khan Market. The CEO of matrix Cellular, Gourav, was arrested on Friday evening.
“As the arrested persons spilled the beans on Navneet Kalra, he became the key person in the entire illegal trade. Kalra’s questioning may help us know how the entire illegal business was being run and how many more people are involved,” the officer quoted above said.
Matrix Celluar on Saturday issued a statement denying the police’s allegations.
Samudra Sarangi, lead counsel for Matrix, said: “All oxygen concentrators have been imported and acquired by paying applicable import duties, GST / IGST and all sales are done through on their mobile app, and payments are received through online banking channels. The charges of black marketing and hoarding are not only baseless in law, but also irresponsible in such times when Matrix should be focused on fixing the demand-supply gap for oxygen concentrators. Unfortunately, Matrix is victim of police excess and will follow the due legal process to defend itself and its employees to the fullest extent. Matrix has complete faith in our justice system and trusts that the Courts will protect the unjustly victimised.”