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Oxygen plant scam: Mumbai police arrest civic contractor Romin Chheda

The Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of the Mumbai police on Friday arrested civic contractor Romin Chheda, a representative of the Highway Constructions Company, who was booked along with unknown civic officials for the alleged irregularities in setting up oxygen generation plants at nine civic hospitals and two jumbo Covid centres during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We have arrested Romin Chheda, 42, a resident of Borivali. He runs a departmental store as well. We had found that he in connivance with unknown civic officials had caused losses to the civic body to the tune of ₹6 crore. We questioned him for two days and after getting unsatisfactory answers decided to place him under arrest,” said an EOW official.

Chheda will be produced before a Metropolitan Magistrate court on Saturday. The police said he had power of attorney of the firm Highway Constructions Company.

The case was registered at the Nagpada police station on Thursday against Romin Chheda of Highway Construction Company and unknown BMC officials who caused losses worth ₹6 crore to the civic body by overlooking delays in construction.

According to the EOW, the civic body had awarded a contract to build oxygen generation plants in nine of its hospitals and two jumbo Covid centres to the Constructions Company. The hospitals included VN Desai Hospital, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Hospital, GTB Hospital, Kasturba Hospital, BYL Nair Hospital, RN Cooper Hospital, KB Bhabha Hospital, KEM Hospital and ATMG Sion Hospital.

“The work was to be completed in 30 days or the contractor was to be fined 1% of the contract amount for every week of delay. He was even fined ₹3.16 crore for the same. But we found the dates for “handed over” and “taking over” in civic reports did not match in many cases, and they should have collected another ₹6 crore as penalty from the contractor,” said an EOW official.

Officials from the agency said the contract was awarded to Chheda even though he was not eligible for the tender. He and his accomplices also made fake reports showing the work was completed in August 2021, although the work was not completed before October 2021.

“We have applied sections like 418 cheating with knowledge that wrongful loss may ensue to person whose interest offender is bound to protect, 465 punishment for forgery, 467 forgery of valuable security, etc, 468 forgery for the purpose of cheating, 471 using as genuine a forged document or electronic record, 218 public servants framing incorrect record or writing with intent to save a person from punishment or property from forfei­ture, 120 B conspiracy and 34 common intention of the IPC,” said the EOW official.

The EOW has already registered five cases in the alleged irregularities that took place during Covid-19 pandemic. Apart from the Oxygen Generation Plant, it has registered cases in matters related to Covid Jumbo Centre Lifeline Hospitality services, Khichadi distribution, body bag scam and Remdesivir injections.

The civic body had cancelled its contract with Chheda and his firm Highway Constructions Company in 2016.

Highway Constructions was in charge of building the final enclosure to house seven Humboldt penguins for public viewing. It has bagged the contract claiming it has a joint venture with a firm that was expert in building aquatic life. Later however the body found that there was no JV so the BMC scrapped its contract and gave it small work.

Meanwhile, the ED has alleged that Chheda inflated oxygen cylinder bills for CovidD-19 centres during the pandemic. According to ED sources and complaints received by the agency, Chheda, who supplied oxygen cylinders to Covid jumbo centres, allegedly billed them at five times the price. The ED has already conducted searches at the homes and offices of Chheda and his accomplices. The income tax department has also carried out searches in Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Delhi, and Prayagraj in connection with alleged tax evasion.

Chheda is also accused of sub-contracting oxygen supply to a Delhi-based supplier. BJP leader Kirit Somaiya has alleged that he is a blacklisted contractor but was getting contracts due to his connections with various leaders. Hindustan Times

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