Mumbai vaccination fraud: Two, including key accused Rajesh Pandey arrested
AFP

Two more arrests were made on Thursday, in connection with the 'fake' vaccination drive, including one of the main accused, Rajesh Pandey, while the other arrested accused was the administrator of Shivam Hospital, Rahul Dubey. These two arrests were made over a fortnight after the scam came to light at Kandivali-based society Hiranandani Heritage and shed light on the nine other locations where a similar drive was conducted. With these arrests, the total number of accused arrested reached 13. Police claim that all accused in the matter are arrested and the whole fake vaccination drive was orchestrated by the same syndicate.

A senior police official told The Free Press Journal that Pandey, who had been on the run since the scam came to light, had been changing locations from Dharavi to Pune and had reached Baramati on Wednesday night, where he was apprehended and is being brought to the city for further probe. Elaborating on Dubey's arrest, police said that during the confession of Dr. Manish Tripathi, he said that Dubey had played a key role in refilling the empty vaccine doses with saline water, which was later administered to over 2,686 victims.

Pandey, a former employee of Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, who was sacked soon after his name cropped up in the investigation, had conducted unauthorised vaccination drives in Mumbai and Thane claiming that it was organized by Kokilaben Hospital, luring and cheating a number of people and allegedly administering saline water instead of the authentic vaccines. Pandey was the face of the fake vaccination drive as people only knew him as an employee of Kokilaben Hospital and trusted him with the hospital's name.

Soon after Pandey was named as the main accused and it was revealed that he had misused Kokilaben Ambani hospital's name, they managed to get a handwritten statement from him where he confessed to conducting these unauthorised vaccination drives. The hospital subsequently terminated him from his services. Pandey had promised the beneficiaries of fake vaccines that they need not worry about the CoWin registration and orchestrated the whole drive in the name of Kokilaben Ambani hospital.

Police said that all these unauthorized vaccination drives were largely carried out between May 25 and June 6. A senior official also said Dr. Nita Pataria, the head of Shivam Hospital, played an active role in the planning of these fake vaccination drives along with Tripathi and the mastermind Mahendra Singh, wherein they had frequent meetings at Hotel Retreat in Madh, to discuss the logistics and further plan.

On Thursday, an 11th FIR was lodged at MIDC police station in Andheri (E), wherein 1,055 people of a gold company were inoculated by the same gang on four separate dates-- April 28, May 7 and 8, along with June 12, where the victims were charged ₹1,100 per dose. Police have booked eight people in the case-- Dr. Manish Tripathi, Arvind Jadhav, Director of Shivam Hospital, Pawan Singh, Anurag, Roshni Patel, Qareem Ali, Neha Sharma and others, wherein they were booked under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code, Drugs and Cosmetic Act, Information Technology Act and Epidemic Diseases Act. Police said that ₹2.61 lakh was paid and the remaining payment was yet to be made.

Till now police have registered 11 cases in connection to the fake vaccination drive in Mumbai and Thane, in which 13 people have been arrested. A few students who have been named as accused in the case for administering vaccines in the lure of extra practical marks, have been shown as witnesses/approvers in the case. Police also said that Dr. Manish Tripathi had even signed nine handwritten certificates of vaccination, after a few beneficiaries had approached Shivam Hospital for certificates and threatened to approach police or BMC officials if they did not get a token of certification.

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