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 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, official sources said.

The agency found that they dealt in over 7,000 of these life-saving devices in an alleged illegal manner, and it also recovered 151 liquor bottles from the premises of Kalra in Delhi, ED sources said.

They said the searches were conducted at 13 premises of Kalra and his family, Matrix Cellular Services director Gagan Duggal, restaurants like Khan Chacha, Nega & Ju, Town Hall and Dayal Opticals in the high-end Khan market of Delhi and some other locations in Gurgaon under provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

The central probe agency has widened the ambit of the investigation as it suspects that more than 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.

ED sources claimed that the duo 'had imported more than 7,000 oxygen concentrators from China in the past one month and sold to public at exorbitant prices by claiming that the concentrators are made with German technology'.

They claimed that the 'forensic examination of the concentrators has revealed that they are very low quality equipment'.

Their import price of these devices is Rs 15,000 per piece but they have been sold at Rs 69,999 per unit, the sources claimed.

The two 'took advantage' of a raging pandemic and made huge profit by cheating the public, the ED sources alleged.

At the Mandi road premises of Kalra and his family in south Delhi's Mehrauli area, they said, 151 scotch whiskey bottles were recovered.

Kalra's bank accounts were also searched by the agency sleuths, 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 him.

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.

Matrix Cellular, in a statement posted on its website, said it is 'deeply pained by the insinuations that have been made against the company and its employees that it has engaged in black-marketing or hoarding of oxygen concentrators; when Matrix's intentions have been to ensure quick and efficient access to oxygen concentrators, after complying with all applicable laws'.

'The baseless allegations and misguided investigation, shall be fiercely contested by Matrix and very soon we will be back to doing what we should be - which is helping Delhi!' it said.

The ED, 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.

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

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