Mumbai EOW Files FIR Against BMC Contractor In ₹60 Crore Oxygen Plant Fraud

Mumbai EOW Files FIR Against BMC Contractor In ₹60 Crore Oxygen Plant Fraud

The General Cheating-1 branch of the EOW Wednesday registered a case against Ghatkopar-based contractor Romil Chheda for Highway Construction Company and concerned officials of BMC.

Ashish SinghUpdated: Thursday, November 23, 2023, 09:42 PM IST
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Mumbai police's Economic Offences Wing (EOW) officials on Wednesday registered an First Information Report (FIR) against a contractor and unidentified officials of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in connection with the fraud in the contracts of the oxygen plant setting up and causing a loss of Rs 60,000,000.00 (Six crore) to the civic body. This is the fifth FIR filed by EOW regarding the various irregularities that occurred during the COVID-induced pandemic. Earlier four FIRs are related to frauds in Covid jumbo centre-Lifeline Hospitality Services, Khichdi scam, Body Bag Scam and Remdesevir injections scam.

The General Cheating-1 branch of the EOW Wednesday registered a case against Ghatkopar-based contractor Romil Chheda for Highway Construction Company and concerned officials of BMC. They are all booked under sections 418, 465, 467, 468, 471, 218, 120(b), and 34 of the Indian Penal Code. Soon, the ED may also register a money laundering case in the matter and launch an investigation.

Chheda's place was earlier raided by the Enforcement Directorate in July this year in connection with the irregularities they came across in the oxygen plant contracts while probing other matters.Chheda is an authorised representative of Highway Construction Company, a company based in Allahabad, U.P. Highway Construction Company is the same entity that was penalised in the Byculla Zoo Penguin Enclosure scam,- sources said.

As per the EOW's FIR, the alleged offences of Oxygen plants were committed between April 2021 and January 2022 at the Municipal Workshop in Byculla-East and at the site of the oxygen generation plant on the premises of nine respective hospitals of BMC.

As per the police complaint, during the preliminary investigation it was found that the concerned officials of the BMC, who were looking after the works of contracts 1 and 2 (contracts for the construction of an oxygen generation plant in the Municipal Hospital and Jumbo Covid Centre), overlooked the eligibility rules while awarding contracts.

On behalf of Highway Construction Company, Unissi India Pvt., the original manufacturer, did not fulfil the quality eligibility criteria. Despite this contract were awarded to the Highway Construction Company in an unruly manner.According to the available documents, Aslam Sheikh, who was the Guardian Minister at that time, raised objections regarding irregularities and the awarding of the contract to a blacklisted construction company. He also questioned the legitimacy of certain bills and called for an inquiry into the alleged bogus billing.

The accused, Romin Chheda, who had the power of attorney for Highway Construction Company, allegedly connived with other accused for the said offence.

While the construction of the oxygen generation plant was not completed within the prescribed period mentioned in the contract, it was shown that the work on the plants was completed in August 2021. Also, fake heading over and taking over reports were made, and for the same limited period, they also allegedly fraudulently charged a late fee, thus causing a wrongful loss of Rs 6 crore to the civic body-states the FIR.

The agency is also investigating if profits were shared with individuals with political influence.

In July this year, the ED carried out searches in various matters pertaining to irregularities in BMC during COVID-19, including the oxygen plant fraud. The agency had raided 10 places in Mumbai, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Haryana.

Chheda is also under scanner for allegedly providing substandard equipment that does not match the standard quality and requirements, and despite this, his files were processed by civic officials, and he was paid exorbitantly, the source added.Chheda's name also cropped up in the investigation related to Suraj Chavan, a close aide of Shiv Sena MLA Aditya Thackeray.

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