Remdesivir black marketing rackets busted in Gujarat; 10 held

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Ahmedabad, Apr 29 (PTI) In two separate incidents, the Ahmedabad police on Thursday nabbed 10 persons, one of them working with a pharma firm, with genuine as well as fake Remdesivir vials which they were planning to sell in the black market at very high rates, officials said.

Besides seizing genuine and counterfeit vials of Remdesivir, the police recovered Rs 21 lakh in cash from the hotel room of one of the accused, they said.

In a shocking revelation, the city crime branch has learnt that seven of them have already sold around 5,000 fake Remdesivir injections, at a rate of up to Rs 29,000 per vial, to the relatives of coronavirus patients, they said.

The anti-viral drug, widely used to treat critical coronavirus patients, is in high demand nationwide after the recent surge in COVID-19 cases.

Among the three accused held by the Special Operations Group (SOG) of the crime branch in another operation, one works as a 'plant operator' at Zydus Biotech Park on the outskirts of the city where the pharma firm manufactures Remdesivir, said the officials.

Based on a tip-off, a team of the SOG raided a shop in the Bapunagar area and nabbed three men with 24 vials of Remdesivir worth Rs 21,576, said Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone 6) A M Muniya.

The arrested persons were identified by the police as Milan Savsaviya (21), Deval Kaswala (23) and Hardik Vasani (26), all residents of Ahmedabad.

'Milan Savsaviya has been working as a plant operator at Zydus Biotech Park in Changodar for over 2 years. His job is to supervise the final stage of Remdesivir production at the facility.

'He confessed to have siphoned off 24 vials from the plant and sold them to Deval Kaswala for Rs 3,000 each,' said Muniya.

Later, Kaswala sold these vials to Vasani for Rs 6,000 each and then the latter sold them to the relatives of COVID- 19 patients at high rates, the DCP added.

In another operation, the crime branch nabbed seven persons who have allegedly sold around 5,000 fake Remdesivir injections at high rates, a second police official said.

A crime branch team first nabbed three men - Jay Thakur, Sunny Singh and Raj Vora - and recovered 30 fake Remdesivir vials, which they had purchased for Rs 12,000 each from one Nitesh Joshi, who has also been apprehended, he said.

'Joshi, a resident of the Naroda area, had rented a room in a five-star hotel in Vastrapur to run this racket. We raided his hotel room and recovered another 103 fake vials of the drug.

'We recovered Rs 21 lakh from the room and also arrested his friend Shaktisinh Ravat from the spot,' said Joint Commissioner of Police, Crime, Premvir Singh.

Preliminary questioning revealed that the seized vials actually contained an antibiotic available at Rs 100 in the market, he said.

It was revealed that Joshi had purchased the vials from one Vivek Maheshwari, who runs a pharmaceutical agency in Vadodara.

While Maheshwari is absconding, his friend Dishant Malaviya, who is part of the racket, has been arrested, said Singh.

'Maheshwari and Malaviya had purchased vials of an antibiotic drug for Rs 100 per vial from a factory in Ahmedabad and then changed the stickers to make it look like Remdesivir.

'The gang also prepared original-looking packaging boxes. Joshi has alone sold 400 fake injections,' said Singh.

The seventh accused is Paril Patel, who used to prepare duplicate stickers and packaging boxes for vials, he said.

'All the seven accused knew each other as they were into pharmaceutical trade. Till now, they have confessed to have sold around 5,000 fake Remdesivir injections,' the police officer added.

On Wednesday, four persons were arrested from Ahmedabad and one from Anand town with 90 Remdesivir injections worth Rs 4.86 lakh which they were planning to sell in the black market, police had said. PTI PJT RSY RSY