4 held for hoarding over 25 lakh masks

Huge haul: Home Minister Anil Deshmukh and the police show the masks recovered on Tuesday.

Huge haul: Home Minister Anil Deshmukh and the police show the masks recovered on Tuesday.   | Photo Credit: Vijay Bate

They planned to sell them at high prices in the black market once scarcity struck

The Mumbai Police Crime Branch has busted a racket where over 25 lakh face masks were being hoarded to be sold on the black market at high prices, taking advantage of the ongoing crisis and the fear that it has generated in people’s minds.

According to officials, the three-ply and two-ply N95 masks were seized from a godown in Sahar village on the basis of a tip-off received earlier this month.

In a press conference held at the Unit XI office in Bandra on Tuesday morning, Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said, “Mumbai Police Commissioner Parambir Singh had received information seven to eight days ago that the masks, of which there is a severe shortage in the State currently, are being hoarded in large quantities. Senior police inspector Mahesh Desai, in charge of Unit IX, then contacted the accused as a buyer and said that he wanted to purchase the mask in bulk.”

Working on the information, Mr. Desai and his team raided the godown in the early hours of Tuesday and seized 9.6 lakh disposable masks, arresting four accused. Based on the initial questioning of the accused, the Unit IX went on to seize a further quantity of 15.61 lakh masks from another godown in Bhiwandi. Officials said the collective market value of the seized masks comes up to ₹14.13 crore.

The four accused have been identified as Mihir Patel (46), Shahrukh Sheikh (23), Balaji Nadar (36) and Ghulam Ali (30). The police said there are several others, including the mastermind of the racket, who are yet to be arrested. “The accused had started buying the masks from wherever they could as soon as the scare first began and had been hoarding it since then. Their intention was to hoard as much as possible, wait till there was an utter scarcity and then start selling them for as high a price as they could. We are ascertaining if they had already started selling them or were still waiting,” Deputy Commissioner of Police (Detection I) Akbar Pathan said.

The accused have been charged under the Essential Commodities Act and have been remanded in the Crime Branch’s custody till March 27, officials said.

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Printable version | Apr 10, 2020 6:18:11 PM |

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