New Delhi: The Enforcement Directorate on Friday (May 21) raided at least 10 premises linked to businessman Navneet Kalra and his associates in Delhi-NCR as part of a money-laundering probe linked to a recent case of alleged hoarding and black-marketing of oxygen concentrators, officials said.
The concentrators are in short supply as they are being anxiously scoured by those gasping for breath amid the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country. Official sources said the searches are being conducted on at least 10 places in the national capital region under provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). The raids are aimed to gather additional evidence, they said.
The ED had recently booked Kalra and others under the anti-money laundering law, taking cognisance of a Delhi Police FIR filed on May 5 after policemen raided some restaurants and premises owned and linked to Kalra. The police had recovered more than 524 of these life-saving machines from these premises and it was alleged that they were being hoarded and sold in the black market. Kalra had denied any wrongdoing and claimed that the consignment was kept for regular sale. He was sent to 14 days judicial custody by a local court here on Thursday.
Police have said the concentrators seized from Kalra’s restaurants were imported from China and were being sold at an exorbitant price of Rs 50,000-Rs 70,000 each as against a cost of Rs 16,000-Rs 22,000 each. They further claimed that the people were being misinformed that the concentrators have been bought from Germany, however, in reality, they were imported from China with only 20 per cent efficiency.
Along with Navneet Kalra, ED is also conducting raids at Kalra’s father-in-law Sirajuddin Qureshi. Sirajuddin, along with his wife and son, works as a meat export in the name of Hind Agro Industries. For this, he took a bank loan facility of Rs 200 crore from PNB, which was later increased to Rs 357 crore. The bank had given this facility to him for the export purpose, however, the police claimed that Sirajuddin Qureshi used these funds for the local market and also shifted a lot of money to his other company, which was not involved in any business.
On August 24, 2020, on the complaint of PNB Bank, the CBI registered a case and conducted raids in Delhi and Aligarh. Later, it registered a case of money laundering against him.
The agency, officials had earlier told PTI, will probe if the oxygen concentrators were illegally hoarded and sold to the family members or caregivers of coronavirus-infected patients at exorbitant prices, thereby leading to generation of “proceeds of crime” as defined under the PMLA.
The ED is empowered to question and record the statements of the accused and it can even attach their properties during the course of investigation, following which it files a charge sheet before a special PMLA court seeking their prosecution under the anti-money laundering law.
Kalra was nabbed by Delhi Police Crime Branch sleuths from Gurgaon on Sunday night and was formally arrested the next day. He was on the run for over a week since the seizure of more than 500 oxygen concentrators from his restaurants like Khan Chacha, Town Hall, and Nega and Ju.
An oxygen concentrator is a vital medical equipment used to provide oxygen to COVID-19 patients and they are in high demand amid the second wave of the pandemic being witnessed by the country at present.
The police have pressed charges under Section 420 (cheating), 188 (disobedience to order promulgated by public servant), 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code, Essential Commodities Act and the Epidemic Diseases Act against Kalra and others.
Four employees of Matrix Cellular company, including its CEO and vice president, were also arrested in this case by the police.
They were, however, granted bail by the court.
Kalra is alleged to have purchased the concentrators from Matrix Cellular, which had imported them.