New Delhi: Delhi Police claim to have busted a high-profile black-marketing racket with the recovery of 524 oxygen concentrators from three bars and restaurants, including the wildly popular Khan Chacha at Khan Market, and a farmhouse.
The alleged racket comes to light amid reports of a grievous oxygen shortage in the capital for Covid-19 patients, with pleas for the life-saving resource flooding social media.
Oxygen concentrators are considered an emergency aid for patients experiencing respiratory distress (when blood oxygen saturation is no lower than 88 per cent) as they help ease the burden on their lungs.
According to Delhi Police, the accused had imported the concentrators from China as far back as October 2020, and provided them to people at up to four times the price at which they bought the oxygen.
The seizures included 32 oxygen concentrators from the Nege Ju Restaurant and Bar at Central Market, Lodhi Colony, and 9 from Town Hall restaurant in Khan Market Thursday, and 96 from Khan Chacha Friday. A total of 387 were seized from a farmhouse at Khullar Farm in Mandi village that is believed to be operated by Matrix Cellular company.
“All the restaurants are interconnected. Navneet Kalra, owner of the two restaurants is absconding. His mobile number is switched off. Other owners of the eateries will also be interrogated,” Deputy Commissioner of Police (South) Atul Thakur said.
Kalra is a well-known businessman who owns a chain of properties in Khan Market. Police said he is also associated with Dayal Optics and Mr Chow.
The DCP didn’t clarify if all the three establishments are run by Kalra and the others.
Thakur said Matrix is one of the companies through which the import was done. “Gagan Dugal, the owner of Matrix, is also on police radar,” he added.
ThePrint reached Kalra on his mobile phone but it was switched off. Dugal, who is believed to be abroad couldn’t be reached on his phone.
“These oxygen concentrators with a capacity of 5 to 9 litres were imported from China at prices ranging between Rs 16,000 and Rs 20,000 and were sold at exorbitant prices of Rs 60,000 to Rs 71,000 to those in need,” the DCP said.
“The imports had started in October last year and in February this year, as demand soared, more were brought in. All those involved in hoarding, storage, distribution and black-marketing of these oxygen concentrators will be probed. Further investigation is underway,” he added.
“In the recent consignment, 650 oxygen concentrators were imported, out of which 120 have been sold,” the DCP said.
Four people have been arrested in the case so far, including the manager of Nege Ju, identified as Hitesh. The other three are Gaurav, business head of Matrix Cellular, Satish Sethi, manager at Matrix Cellular, and Vikrant, a sales executive at the company.
They have been booked under various sections of the Essential Commodities Act and the Epidemic Diseases Act for allegedly hoarding the oxygen concentrators and black-marketing them.
‘Further investigation on’
According to police, these oxygen concentrators were sold through an online portal — ‘Xpect Everything’ — and also through WhatsApp as and when demands came in.
DCP Thakur said the raids at Khan Chacha and Town Hall were conducted as follow-ups after the recovery of oxygen concentrators from Nege Ju.
India Today has accessed purported WhatsApp chats of Kalra where he appears to be sharing account details with people who wanted to buy oxygen concentrators.
During the raid at Nege Ju, police said they found a laptop that had invoices for the concentrators.
According to police, during interrogation, the accused said they had a large stock of oxygen concentrators at the farmhouse.
“Due to scarcity of oxygen concentrators in the market amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the accused imported oxygen concentrators, masks and then started selling the oxygen concentrators at exorbitant prices to the citizens. Further investigation is on,” the DCP South said.
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)