Multiple raids were conducted by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Friday in connection with a money laundering probe into fake Covid testing during the recently-held Kumbh Mela in Uttarakhand’s Haridwar. Searches were conducted at the offices of Novus Path Labs, DNA Labs, Max Corporate Services, Dr. Lal Chandani Labs Pvt Ltd and Nalwa Laboratories Pvt Ltd and also at the residential premises of their directors in Dehradun, Haridwar, Delhi, Noida and Hisar, the agency said in a statement.
The ED said it has seized “incriminating documents, bogus bills, laptops, mobile phones and property documents and Rs 30.9 lakh cash” during the raids that were ongoing.
The agency recently registered a criminal case under provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) against the accused companies and their directors after studying Uttarakhand Police FIRs against them. This was followed by the raids.
These labs were given the contract by the Uttarakhand government for conducting rapid antigen and RT-PCR tests for coronavirus during the Kumbh Mela, the ED said.
These labs hardly carried out any COVID-19 test and made “fake entries” for the testing and raised “bogus” bills in order to earn illegal financial gains, it said.
“An amount of Rs 3.4 crore has already been received by them from Uttarakhand government as part payment,” the ED said.
The agency said its investigation found that the “modus operandi used by these labs was that they used 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”.
“Testing was claimed to be done in the name of the persons who never visited the Kumbh Mela in Haridwar,” it claimed.
Due to false-negative testing by these labs, the positivity rate of Haridwar at that time was shown at 0.18 per cent against the actual 5.3 per cent, the ED said.
One of the world’s largest religious gatherings, the Kumbh was held in the state from April 1 to 30, and the notified area for the congregation covered various places in Haridwar, Dehradun, and Tehri districts.
Back in July, teams investigating the RT-PCR test scam that surfaced during the Kumbh Mela had called up all mobile phone numbers that were registered against the nearly 1 lakh RT-PCR tests that are alleged to be fake.
The Uttarakhand government had constituted an eight-member team that dialed these numbers, one by one, and verified them.
Eleven private companies had been authorized by the Uttarakhand government to carry out RT-PCR tests of people attending the fair. This was done in order to detect Covid-19 cases and prevent the viral infection from spreading in the Kumbh Mela area.
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