Police in Gujarat’s Valsad district had on April 15 arrested a technical director of medicine company Bruck Pharma and his associate for allegedly selling injections of the antiviral remdesivir injection in the black market, the Hindustan Times reported on Monday.

The incident came to light following a controversy after Bharatiya Janata Party leader Devendra Fadnavis on Saturday intervened as Mumbai Police questioned Rajesh Dokania, director of the Daman-based pharmaceutical company. The police had apprehended Dokania on information that at least 60,000 Remdesivir vials were being sent abroad through air cargo, despite a ban on the export of the drug, PTI reported.

States such as Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat have complained about a shortage of remdesivir, which is being used to treat critical coronavirus patients, even though medical opinion about its effectiveness has been mixed.

In a briefing on the arrest last week, Superintendent of Police at Valsad’s Vapi town Rajdeep Singh Jhala said that one of those held identified himself as Manish Singh, a technical director of Bruck Pharma, while his associate Varun Kundra owned a furniture shop.

Jhala said that the police had received a tip-off about the two selling remedesivir injections at a higher price than market rate.

“When one of our policemen approached Kundra posing as a relative of a patient, he agreed to sell one injection for Rs 12,000 and 12 injections for Rs 1.44 lakh,” Jhala said, according to PTI. As soon as he showed one vial, other police personnel caught him. Kundra claimed that he purchased the drug from his friend Manish Singh.”

The police seized 18 vials of the injection and arrested the two under charges of cheating and relevant sections of the Epidemic Disease Act and Essential Commodity Act, the Hindustan Times reported.

Not afraid of inquiry, says Fadnavis

Meanwhile, following the controversy over his intervention in the question of Bruck Pharma director, Fadnavis has said that he was not afraid of any inquiry against him, claiming he had done nothing wrong, PTI reported.

The former Mahrashtra chief minister has said that last week Bharatiya Janata Party leaders Praveen Darekar and Prasad Lal had gone to Daman and asked Bruck Pharma to supply remdesivir to Maharashtra because the state was facing a shortage.

“We had not called those remdesivir vials for the BJP and Darekar had met the food and drug administration minister [of Maharashtra] to say that the remdesivir injections will be handed over to the ministry and the municipal corporation,” Fadnavis told reporters on Sunday.

Political leaders had criticised the BJP following the controversy, accusing Fadnavis of helping to hoard the drug during the ongoing Covid emergency. Congress leader Sachin Sawant also pointed out that companies needed to inform the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation and the state Food and Drug Administration about the details of the stock with them following the Centre’s ban on the export of the drug.