Shanker Group owner Agrawal arrested for overpricing thermal gunsMedical equipment suppliers suspect foul play as many of them ordered thermal guns from China, but none of them received their cargo.
Police on Tuesday arrested Sulav Agrawal, the owner of Shanker Group, on charge of blackmarketeering thermal guns used to screen people for high fever.
Senior Superintendent Sahakul Thapa of the Metropolitan Police Crime Division said Agrawal was arrested in Naxal for selling infrared thermometers, which cost around Rs 3,000-3,500 per unit, at Rs 16,000 each.
Police have confiscated 67 thermal guns, which are in high demand because of the Covid-19 pandemic, from Agrawal, also the honorary consul of Kyrgyzstan in Nepal.
“After getting a tip-off that he was selling thermal guns at a much higher price than that of the market, we contacted him on WhatsApp posing as customers,” said Thapa.
“He quoted Rs 16,000 per piece and after negotiations, he agreed to sell them for Rs 15,000.”
Shanker Group, which has companies in various sectors such as cement, steel and textile manufacturing and hospitality, recently received 20,000 thermal guns it ordered from China on a chartered flight last week, according to police.
Many other medical equipment and material suppliers long involved in supply of such materials, had also placed orders for thermal guns along with Shanker Group. But, they said none of them received the order when the Nepal Airlines plane returned from China.
“More than a dozen suppliers had ordered around 9,000 thermal guns,” said Suresh Ghimire, president of Chemical and Medical Suppliers Association of Nepal. “But, none of them received a single unit.”
He said it was suspicious that a single firm received all the supplies. “I think the whole thing was designed in a way that the firm which gets the supplies now, can sell the units at a higher price while others wait for another chartered flight, which is uncertain,” he said.
Last Thursday, Flash Freight Logistics, a private company, chartered a Nepal Airlines plane to pick up medical equipment ordered by various companies, from Guangzhou.
Sunrise Surgical House firm based in Tripureshwor is one of the firms that ordered medical equipment, including 1,000 infrared thermometers. Sitaram Karki, proprietor of Sunrise told the Post that whoever had not ordered thermal guns, received their cargo while those who had ordered thermal guns did not receive them.
“None of the regular medical suppliers got the thermal guns,” he said. “But, now the market is full of thermal guns.”
Earlier, the government’s decision to award a contract to supply essential medical equipment to Omni Business Corporate International had landed in controversy after it appeared that the prices the company quoted were several times higher than that from other suppliers.
Amid controversy, the government terminated the contract and decided to hand over the task to the Nepal Army. The government’s move also invited controversy as questions were raised over whether the move was aimed at dodging scrutiny by the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority.