Kandivli Police arrested four men and detained one on the intervening night of Thursday and Friday, in connection with the ‘fraud’ vaccination drive undertaken in a residential society on May 30.
Police said that the drive was conducted without permission from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the accused had misused hospital IDs. The same gang has administered the fraudulent vaccines at nine other places, police said.
According to police sources, the residents had allegedly approached Rajesh Pandey, employed at a private hospital, to enquire about the vaccination drive in their residential complex and he had referred a middleman.
Pandey is then alleged to have approached the mastermind of the racket, Mahendra Pratap Singh, 39, and established contact with his aide Sanjay Gupta, 29, who organised the entire ‘vaccination’ drive.
Additional Commissioner of Police (North) Dilip Sawant said preliminary inquiries had revealed, the vaccination camp organised at Hiranandani Heritage in Kandivli was unauthorised and vaccines were bought from unauthorised sources.
Mahendra, who has worked with a medical association for over 17 years as a clerk, has not completed Class 10. He was in touch with a number of hospitals and doctors and he contacted a doctor, not yet arrested and connected him to the other two arrested accused -- Nitin Mode, 32, and Lalit alias Chandan Singh, 32, who used the hospital credentials in the CoWin application without authorisation.
Police officials said that Sanjay and Mahendra had hired nursing students from a Charkop training institution to administer the shots to the residents without an authorised doctor in attendance, a clear violation of the BMC guidelines for vaccination drives in residential complexes.
The fifth accused, Qareem Akbar Ali, 21, was the carrier of the vaccination vials and he could shed light on the source of the vaccines, police said. Qareem has been detained in Madhya Pradesh and is being brought to Mumbai for further probe.
ACP Sawant said that the vaccines had not been purchased from authorised centres. Police said that certificates received by the residents from the CoWin portal had correctly named the beneficiaries but the time, location and hospital names were not accurate.
“The same gang has conducted similar vaccination camps at nine different locations and we are working with the BMC and will conduct a parallel investigation”, said a police officer. Police are also awaiting the report from the BMC in the matter.
Police suspect that the accused could have hired different nurses at other locations and has not ruled out the possibility of more nurses being roped in for the fraud. Two more accused are still wanted in the case and more arrests are likely to be made, they said.
Additional Municipal Commissioner (Health) Suresh Kakani has said that the BMC would be able to identify other housing societies where similar fraudulent vaccine drives may have been arranged only if it receives details from police. “As these are privately organised vaccine camps, the onus was on the society management and suppliers, so BMC can trace any other locations only if the culprits reveal it to Mumbai Police,” Kakani told the FPJ on Friday.
Further, Kakani said that the report of the inquiry being carried out by Deputy Municipal Commissioner Vishwas Shankarwar is due and may be submitted late night on Friday or early on Saturday.