Mumbai: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Tuesday grilled Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer and Additional BMC Commissioner (Projects), P Velrasu, for more than six hours in connection with the ₹49.63 lakh Covid body bag scam. Meanwhile, ex-mayor Kishori Pednekar has been summoned today. Velrasu's statement has been recorded and he may be called again if required, hinted a source.
The agency questioned him regarding his alleged role in finalising the contractor for awarding tender to buy body bags for deceased Covid patients at inflated rates, said sources. The ED said that it's trying to find out if he was under the influence of any political leader or their associates.
The covid body bag scam
It has been alleged that during the pandemic, the BMC procured the body bags at an inflated cost. The FIR registered by the Economic Offences Wing doesn't directly names Velrasu instead holds the Additional Municipal Commissioner (Projects), who helmed the post back then, responsible for the fraud. During Covid, Velrasu was holding the office at that time and still continues to do so, while Pednekar was Mumbai's mayor when the alleged crime took place. Velrasu is the third IAS officer who has been summoned by the ED in Covid-related cases while BMC administrator Iqbal Singh Chahal and Sanjeev Jaiswal had been summoned before him.
Vedanta Innotech Pvt Ltd's name surfaces
The FIR also names private company Vedanta Innotech Pvt Ltd for allegedly supplying body bags at ₹6,719 apiece. As per ED's report, the amount was over three times (₹1,500 per piece) as compared to the charge levied on other private hospitals or government authorities during the same period.
Pednekar and other senior civic officials have been booked under sections 409 (criminal breach of trust by a public servant or by a banker, merchant, or agent), 420 (cheating), and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code. The ex-mayor was earlier questioned by the EOW and was even granted her four weeks’ interim protection from arrest.