ED finds Kalra, aides dealt in 7,000 oxygen concentrators; recovers 151 liquor bottles during raids

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New Delhi, May 21 (PTI) The Enforcement Directorate on Friday recovered 151 liquor bottles after it raided multiple 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 central probe agency, according to official sources, has widened the ambit of the investigation being conducted against Kalra by the Delhi Police Crime Branch, as it suspects that 7,000 oxygen concentrators were transacted by the restaurateur and his aides as the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country.

The concentrators are in short supply as they are being anxiously scoured by those gasping for breath due to the high rate of infection of coronavirus.

The sources said the searches were conducted on at least 14-15 premises in the national capital region under provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

At one location linked to Kalra, they said, 151 scotch whiskey bottles were recovered.

The raids, including at the premises of Kalra's family members and the Matrix group, are continuing and 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.

ED sources said Kalra and his associates dealt in 7,000 oxygen concentrators over a period of just one month (March-April) and the investigation is ongoing to ascertain how many were bought and sold.

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.

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 the 524 oxygen concentrators from his restaurants like Khan Chacha, Town Hall, and Nega & Ju.

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.

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. PTI NES KJ KJ