COVID Centre Scam: Ex-Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar booked, Body Bag company summoned
Trouble has mounted for former Mumbai Mayor and Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Kishori Pednekar after the Economic Offenses Wing (EOW) summoned the company that received the bodybag contract during the COVID-19 outbreak. A case was registered against Pednekar in connection with the BMC COVID centre scam case after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) reportedly accessed details and documents from the Mumbai Police pertaining to the irregularities in the purchase of body bags and other medical supplies during the pandemic.
The EOW has sought documents from the Vedanta Innotech Company. Pednekar has been accused of getting a commission by giving a tender to Vedanta Innotech company. The former Mayor has been booked under sections 420 (cheating) and 120(B) (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The alleged BMC COVID Centre scam came to light last year, and it involves substantial financial irregularities and misappropriation of funds during the management of COVID care centres in Mumbai. An FIR in this regard was registered at Mumbai's Azad Maidan Police Station in August 2022 based on a complaint filed by BJP leader Kirit Somaiya. Subsequently, the case was transferred to the EOW of Mumbai Police in October 2022 for further investigation. Somaiya has alleged that each body bag worth Rs 1500 was purchased for a whopping Rs 6,700 and that funds worth crores of rupees were transferred.
Earlier this month, Suraj Chavan, a key aide of Shiv Sena (UBT) MLA Aaditya Thackeray, was questioned by the EOW in connection with the alleged scam. The investigation has been ongoing, revealing various irregularities and lapses in the management of COVID care centres.
According to sources, the investigation uncovered that BMC had secured contracts for 42 ICU units with 420 beds, along with 1176 medical staff comprising doctors, nurses, and ward boys. Additionally, a contract was floated for 80 units, each containing 50 beds, requiring approximately 5520 staff, including doctors and paramedics. Lifeline Hospital was awarded the contract for 10 ICU beds and 951 other beds in Worli and Dahisar. However, an investigation found that the manpower on the day of bidding was only 18 people, out of which 6-7 were doctors, and one was a partner of the firm.
Moreover, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) conducted a separate investigation into financial transactions related to the Lifeline Hospital. It was found that when the firm paid a bill of Rs 32 crore to BMC, it reported a profit of Rs 12 crore, of which Rs 1 crore was paid as taxes. However, it is suspected that the recorded entry may be bogus, and the actual profit could be closer to Rs 20 crore.
ED claims to have successfully traced the money trail in the Lifeline Hospital scam. A source from the investigation stated that approximately 22 crores were laundered by Sujit Patkar and his partners. The funds were allegedly transferred to shell companies, and some amounts of cash were initially utilised in opening medical shops, the source claimed.