June 25, 2024

In a recent development linked to the forgery case regarding oxygen plant contracts during the Covid-19 crisis, the Financial Crimes Unit (EOW) of the Mumbai police detained Romin Chheda, a Ghatkopar-based contractor of M/s Highway Construction Company. This arrest, which occurred two days post the filing of the initial case report, was carried out to investigate a scam causing a financial loss of Rs 6 crore to the urban corporation.

Additionally, unidentified officials from BMC are implicated in this case. Chheda was grilled for an extensive eight-hours on Thursday, only to be summoned again on Friday for further inquiry. Following his lack of cooperation with the investigators, an arrest was enforced. A senior EOW officer verified the course of events to The Indian Express.

Chheda, who also operates textile shops, was apprehended under multiple sections of the Indian Penal Code, including sections 418, 465, 467, 468, 471, 218, 120(b), and 34. EOW personnel are expected to present him in court on Saturday to secure his custody for intensived questioning.

Previously, in July this year, Chheda was targeted by ED in connection with the alleged anomalies in the oxygen plant contracts whilst inspecting other concerns. He holds the lawful representative status of the Highway Construction Company, which was also punished in the Byculla Zoo Penguin Enclosure fraud according to sources.

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The EOW’s Investigation Report

The FIR by EOW provides that the alleged crimes relating to the oxygen plants occurred between April 2021 and January 2022 at the Municipal Workshop in Byculla-East and at the sites of the oxygen generation plants on the premises of nine BMC hospitals including V N Desai Hospital, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Hospital, GTB Hospital, Kasturba Hospital, BYL Nair Hospital, R N Cooper Hospital, K B Bhabha Hospital, KEM Hospital and ATMG Sion Hospital.

According to the police report, during the initial examination, it was determined that BMC officers in charge of contracts 1 and 2 (contracts concerning the oxygen generation plant construction at the Municipal Hospital and Jumbo Covid Centre), had neglected eligibility rules whilst awarding contracts.

Though the original manufacturer, Unissi India Pvt., acting on behalf of the Highway Construction Company, did not meet the requisite quality eligibility criteria, the contract was nevertheless bestowed upon the Highway Construction Company. The accused, Romin Chheda, a legal representative of the Highway Construction Company, is suspected of having colluded with other defendants in orchestrating the fraud.

While the oxygen generation plant’s construction was not concluded within the agreed time frame indicated in the contract, it was falsely claimed that the work was completed by August 2021. Additionally, counterfeit ‘handing over’ and ‘taking over’ reports were created and exploited to illicitly levied a late fee for the specified period, therefore enduring a wrongful loss of Rs 6 crore to the civic body,” as expressed in the FIR.

The contractor was required to finish the assignment within 30 days, or face a penalty worth 1% of the contract amount for each week of delay. Thus, the contractor was fine Rs 3.16 crore. However, an EOW official elucidated that a subsequent investigation revealed that civic officials should have levied an additional Rs 6 crore in penalties from the contractor.

©The Indian Express Pvt Ltd

Article originally posted on: 24-11-2023, 23:43 IST