The Enforcement Directorate on Friday raided the offices of labs that allegedly made fake entries for Covid-19 tests during the Kumbh Mela in Uttarakhand’s Haridwar district in April. The agency filed a money-laundering case against the labs, alleging that they generated bogus bills for financial gains, according PTI.
The raids were carried out on the premises of Novus Path Labs, DNA Labs, Max Corporate Services, Dr. Lal Chandani Labs and Nalwa Labs in Dehradun, Haridwar, Delhi, Noida and Hisar, the Enforcement Directorate said.
Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims had gathered in Haridwar for a ritual bath in the Ganges between April 1 and April 30, amid a massive surge in coronavirus cases during the second wave of the pandemic in India. The blatant violation of Covid-19 protocols at the gathering gained attention across the world. Many pointed out how the gathering increased the chances of a surge in infections. However, the state authorities tried to downplay the risks.
The Uttarakhand government had given the five labs contracts to test devotees during the event. The Enforcement Directorate alleged that they hardly conducted any tests but made fake entries to generate bills.
“An amount of Rs 3.4 crore has already been received by them from the Uttarakhand government as part payment,” the Enforcement Directorate said, according to PTI.
The Enforcement Directorate added that fraud by these laboratories led to recording of a lower Covid-19 test positivity rate at Haridwar than actual – 0.18% as against 5.3%. Positivity rate is the percentage of people who test positive for the virus out of those who have been tested overall.
“Modus operandi used by these labs was that they used a single mobile number or a false mobile number, single address or same specimen referral form (SRF) for multiple persons for showing the inflated numbers of coronavirus testing without actually doing the testing,” the Enforcement Directorate said.
It added that tests were also done in the names of those who did not even attend the Kumbh Mela, according to PTI.
In June, the Uttarakhand Police had filed a case against Lalchandani Labs, Nalwa Labs and Max Corporate Services under charges of spreading disease, cheating and criminal conspiracy, and negligence under sections of the Disaster Management Act and the Epidemic Diseases Act. The labs allegedly conducted 1 lakh fake rapid antigen tests during the Kumbh Mela.
Days after being booked, the labs urged the Uttarakhand High Court to quash the first information report filed against them.