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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Mumbai fake vaccination drive: Hospital owners among 11 chargesheeted

The chargesheet, running into 2,000 pages with statements of 500 people, was submitted in the Borivali magistrate court by the investigating officer, Inspector Deepshika Ware.

Written by Jayprakash S Naidu | Mumbai |
Updated: August 14, 2021 1:03:05 am
Passengers at Lokmanya Tilak Terminus being tested for Covid-19 on Friday. (Express Photo by Amit Chakravarty)

Kandivali police on Friday submitted a chargesheet before a magistrate court against 11 accused, including owners of Shivam hospital, for allegedly conducting a fake vaccination drive for 390 people of Hiranandani Heritage Society in Kandivali (West) on May 30.

The chargesheet, running into 2,000 pages with statements of 500 people, was submitted in the Borivali magistrate court by the investigating officer, Inspector Deepshika Ware.

The crime, as per the chargesheet, was committed for monetary gain. Among several charges of cheating and forgery, the 11 accused are booked for attempt to commit culpable homicide and destruction of evidence. The Mumbai Police had formed an SIT headed by DCP Vishal Thakur to investigate 10 such unauthorised drives in Mumbai. “We have a lot of circumstantial evidence,” said a senior official.

Those named in the chargesheet are Dr Shivraj Pataria, 61; his wife Neeta Pataria, 60, who ran Shivam Hospital in Kandivali (W); Manish Tripathi, 26, a dentist who ran a nursing institute next to the hospital; Karim Akbar Ali, 19, a nursing student in Tripathi’s institute; Mahendra Pratap Singh, 39, a former employee of Malad Medical Association; Sanjay Gupta, 29, a friend of Singh and an event manager; Rajesh Pandey, 52, a friend of Singh and former employee of Kokilaben hospital; Rahul Dubey, 34, an employee of Shivam hospital; Gudiya Yadav, 24; Nitin Monde, 32; and Chandan Singh alias Lalit, 32. The last three accused worked as data entry operators at a private hospital and a Covid care centre.

The Pataria couple, Tripathi and Dubey were allegedly involved in procuring the fake vaccine, Ali helped in transporting it, Singh and Gupta played a role in organising the drive, Pandey gave an impression to the society members that Kokilaben hospital is involved in the drive and helped Singh and Gupta. The last three data entry operators allegedly procured the fake certificates from two private hospitals and the NESCO Covid centre. The operators had access to the CoWin portal.

The police have also submitted a report they received from the MCGM where it stated that Shivam hospital was not authorised to conduct the vaccination drive at the housing society as their authorisation ended in last week of April. The hospital was sealed by BMC and their licence permanently revoked in June.

All 390 residents of the society involved in organising and receiving the vaccine in the drive are made witnesses. The statements of six persons — including Roshni Patel and Ajit Benwasi, who were with the accused during the drive — have been recorded before a magistrate.

In the chargesheet, the police have given information on the money trail received by the accused. The police said the accused made around Rs 4.9 lakh from the scam. The police also collected empty vials from Shivam hospital and forensic reports are awaited from the lab. The accused are booked under IPC, IT Act, Disaster Management Act, Epidemic Diseases Act and Drugs and Cosmetics Act.

The scam came to light in the second week of June after a resident of the Kandivali housing society took to social media alleging that none of the residents suffered any side-effects and many did not receive certificates, while some who received certificates from different hospitals and a Covid centre had wrong information about the vaccination drive.

In the next few weeks it came to the fore that some of the accused organised 12 such drives between April 23 to June 6 at Borivali, Kandivali, Malad, Andheri, Khar, Parel and Turbhe in Navi Mumbai and Naupada in Thane, ‘vaccinating’ a total of 4,093 people. Vishwas Nangre Patil, Joint CP, Law and Order, Mumbai Police said that in nine drives, the people were administered saline water.

The government has started the process of putting all these people through antibody tests for Covid-19 and those who do not have antibodies will be vaccinated.

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