Kumbh fake testing: SIT sends teams to arrest lab owners
A Special Investigation Team (SIT) of Haridwar Police, which is probing the Mahakumbh fake COVID-19 testing case, has sent two teams to Noida and Nainital to arrest the owners of Max Corporate Services. That company was hired by the Uttarakhand government to conduct tests for the religious festival, officials said, according to Hindustan Times. Here are more details on this.
Max Corporate Services had outsourced the testing work to Delhi-based Lal Chandani Labs and Nalwa Labs in Hisar (Haryana), among others. They allegedly conducted some 1,00,000 fake coronavirus tests during the Kumbh Mela earlier this year. All three companies have since been booked under provisions of the Indian Penal Code, the Disaster Management Act, and Epidemic Diseases Act.
Sharad Pant and his wife Mallika Pant, the owners of Max Corporate Services, had earlier sought protection from the Uttarakhand High Court from arrest. The court had granted temporary relief to them at that time. "Their last phone location was traced to Noida on Friday noon, but after that their mobile phones are switched off," an SIT officer said, reported HT.
Meanwhile, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has filed a money laundering case connected to the fake testing scam. The agency had, on Friday, carried out raids at the offices of several laboratories, including Max Corporate Services, DNA Labs, and Nalwa Laboratories in locations across Delhi, Noida, Uttarakhand, and Haryana. ED has launched a probe under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in this case.
Max Corporate Services was given a contract by the Uttarakhand government for conducting Rapid Antigen tests and RT-PCR tests to report COVID-19 infections. The accused firms, however, used fake information to file reports without actually doing tests and raised bogus bills against them. ED has seized fake bills, laptops, mobile phones, and property documents as part of its probe, reports say.
Uttarakhand had reported an 1,800% jump in coronavirus cases between March 31 and April 24, the time when the Kumbh Mela was underway. It was then stopped midway after an appeal by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as COVID-19 cases rose exponentially in the state and across India. Both the state and central government received huge flak for going ahead with the event.