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Police arrest JKG Chairman Dr Sabrina in connection with Covid-19 test scam

  • Published at 09:25 am July 12th, 2020
JKG Health Care Chairman Dr Sabrina Arif Chowdhury
Police take JKG Health Care Chairman Dr Sabrina Arif Chowdhury into custody after interrogating her at DMP Tejgaon Division DC's office in Dhaka on Sunday, July 12, 2020 Focus Bangla

Last month, police had also arrested five people, including three officials of JKG Health Care, for their involvement in the scam

Police have arrested JKG Health Care Chairman Dr Sabrina Arif Chowdhury over her suspected involvement in a recently discovered Covid-19 test scam in Dhaka.

Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Tejgaon Division Deputy Commissioner (DC) Harun-or-Rashid said they will interrogate her thoroughly to learn details of the test scam.

Dr Sabrina, also a cardiac surgeon at the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases, was initially summoned to the DMP Tejgaon Division DC’s office and later shown arrested in the case over the test scam after a brief interrogation.

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry has suspended Dr Sabrina from the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases for her involvement with JKG Health Care while a government employee. An office order was issued following her arrest.

Dr Mir Jamal Uddin, director of the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD), confirmed news of Dr Sabrina's suspension.

On June 24, the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) cancelled all approvals it had given to JKG Health Care regarding the collection of Covid-19 samples.

The cancellation order was issued a day after police arrested three officials of JKG Health Care, including the organization's CEO Ariful Chowdhury, and two others, for giving fake Covid-19 test reports to people who had provided samples at their facility.

Law enforcement found on a JKG Health Care laptop, a large number of false Covid-19 test reports written on official DGHS and IEDCR pads.

Dr Sabrina’s name entered the discussion when it emerged that she is the Chairman of JKG Health Care. She has denied that she holds the position, claiming she only provided consultancy.

Following Dr Sabrina’s arrest, DC Harun-or-Rashid said people previously arrested, confirmed during interrogation that she is the chairman of JKG Health Care.

“She is a government doctor, so we were taking time to collect concrete information before making the arrest,” the DC said.

 “Dr Sabrina denied her involvement with JKG Health Care in the brief interrogation, but she introduces herself as the chairman on her Facebook account. A government doctor cannot hold a post at an NGO while in service, so we showed her as arrested,” the police official added.

“JKG Health Care provided false certificates to many people, including expatriates who were barred from entering airports of other countries,” he continued.

Police will file for remand with the court to interrogate her further on Monday.   

Also Read: Police detain 5 over Covid-19 testing fraud

According to a DGHS order, JKG Health Care received sample collection approval on April 6, while it took till April 16 to receive all other necessary permissions for setting up kiosks and arranging training.

Several times, people who went to their kiosks to give samples alleged that there were middlemen at the booths who would collect their contact information and send them back home without taking samples. Later, someone from the organization would contact them and offer to collect samples from their home for Tk5,000 to Tk8,000.

It also took three to six days to provide the results of the tests as they were submitting to the labs, more than double the samples they were asked to collect per day.

After their corruption was unearthed by media reports, the DGHS DG himself on June 23 asked the NGO to collect only the limited number of samples they were permitted.

In a statement issued on Saturday, the DGHS responded to the issue of JKG Health Care.

Ariful Chowdhury, who is also the organization's chief coordinator, owns Oval Group, an event management company that worked for the Health Ministry in 2018, the statement said.

As the Covid-19 pandemic unfolded, Ariful proposed that the DGHS train volunteers and set up sample collecting booths.

According to the DGHS statement, the proposal looked good and received approval at a time when it was crucial for the country to increase testing capacity.

The DGHS claimed that JKG had “cheated them.”  Oval Group was given the job of organizing celebrations for Health Service Week, the biggest event of the Ministry of Health and Family Planning. As a result, the DGHS had trusted JKG.

The group also used to organize various programs of the Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA).

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