Malappuram (Kerala): A private lab here has allegedly cheated a large number of people, mostly those travelling to the Middle East and other countries. The lab has cheated these people by issuing ‘fake’ COVID-19 negative certificates without testing their samples. The manager of the lab which issued the ‘fake’ certificates has been arrested Tuesday, police said.
The fraud came to light as several expatriates were found positive for COVID-19 on arrival in Saudi Arabia. Before departure they had been issued negative test certificates issued by ‘Arma Lab’ in Valancherry of this district, a franchise of a Kozhikode-based ICMR-approved reputed laboratory.
The ‘Arma Lab’ allegedly cheated around 2,000 people in the past few months by using ‘fake’ letter heads of its parent lab for issuing the negative certificates, police said.
As per the agreement, the franchise has been designated as an agency to collect samples. Their responsibility was send the samples for testing to the Kozhikode-based laboratory, authorised to issue the COVID-19 certificates.
Police said the officials of Arma lab had allegedly collected 2,500 samples in the past few months. However, they had only sent about 500 samples for testing. The lab issued fake COVID-19 negative certificates in about 2,000 cases, police said.
It allegedly charged up to Rs 2,750 for each test and had collected between Rs 40 lakhs to Rs 45 lakhs, they said.
After several expatriates holding the negative certificates tested positive on arrival, the Saudi authorities have barred people with certificates from the Kozhikode lab, police said.
Acting on a complaint by a person allegedly cheated by the lab, the police launched an investigation and arrested the manager of the lab. He was produced before a court which remanded him to judicial custody, sub-inspector of Valanchery police station Muralikrishnan said.
The owner of Arma Lab is now under quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19. He is reported to have approached the Kerala High Court for anticipatory bail in the case.