When JKG Health Care got the job of collecting Covid-19 test samples from booths back in April, the Directorate General of Health Services didn't even check its licence.
Two months later -- just a week before the fake test report scam surfaced -- JKG Health Care got a trade licence from Dhaka North City Corporation on June 16 under the business category of health service and consultancy, police probe found.
The DGHS, however, said they gave permission to JKG only for voluntary services -- to set up booths and collect samples from the booths.
It has been found in police investigation that the organisation started collecting samples from homes in exchange for money despite having no trade licence or the permission to do that.
"They [JKG] showed us a South Korea-like model through a video presentation. We gave them training and logistical support. Their job was only to collect samples from booths. We didn't even give them permission to collect samples from home," Prof Dr Nasima Sultana, additional director general (administration) of the DGHS, told The Daily Star yesterday.
She said they didn't check the organisation's licence at that time.
JKG Health Care, a sister concern of Oval Group, started its journey in 2015 as a non-profit organisation.
According to the trade licence issued on June 16, the owner of JKG Health Care is Jebunnessa Reema, sister of Ariful Chaudhury, CEO of Oval Group.
"When we were investigating the documents of Oval Group, we found JKG Health Care's trade licence was issued this June," Mahmud Khan, assistant commissioner of DMP (Tejgaon Zone), told The Daily Star.
Almost a similar thing happened to Regent Hospital, which allegedly issued several thousand fake Covid-19 test reports. The DGHS had reached a deal with Regent for Covid-19 treatment though its licence expired in 2014 and was never renewed.
TEST REPORT SCAM
One month after the coronavirus hit the country in March, JKG got the approval from DGHS on April 6 and started collecting samples for free through their 44 kiosks installed in Dhaka, Narayanganj and other places.
However, the scam surfaced on June 24 after Tejgaon police arrested five employees of Oval Group, including CEO Ariful, over their alleged involvement in issuing fake Covid-19 test reports.
Police said although JKG Health Care had no permission to collect Covid-19 test samples from people's homes, they would do so through their two platforms -- Booking BD and Health Care.
For such home service, they used to charge Tk 5,000 for locals and USD 100 for foreigners.
After investigation, police found all the test results for samples collected from homes were fake.
The DGHS, in an explanation letter on July 11, said it gave permission to JKG Health Care to set up booths and collect Covid-19 test samples as its coordinator Ariful Chaudhury came to DGHS saying that his organisation can do it -- like in South Korea -- to help the government deal with the Covid-19 crisis.
The DGHS letter clarified that it gave permission to JKG Health Care based on previous event management experience of the Oval Group, including a health ministry event.
It mentioned that Ariful Chaudhury is the CEO of Oval Group, an event management company which had organised a health ministry event -- Health Services Week -- in 2018 as well as managed several events of the Bangladesh Medical Association.
It also referred to the fact that the government would not have to give any money for this collection arrangement.
"As it was needed to increase collection of Covid-19 sample and also there were previous experiences with Oval Group, so the health ministry or DGHS thought it right to give the permission," the letter stated, adding that the DGHS had no idea that JKG could cheat.
STATUS OF INVESTIGATION
Investigators said lobbying government high-ups, Ariful's wife Dr Sabrina Arif Chaudhury managed to get JKG the job of collecting Covid-19 test samples after showing it to be a non-profit organisation.
Her influence also brought the firm several government contracts, including those of the health ministry, after she was married to Ariful in 2015, they said.
Sabrina, a suspended registrar (cardiac surgery) at the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD), was detained on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the investigation charge of the case over the scam has been handed over to the Detective Branch on Monday night. The Tejgaon division of the branch is now probing it.
The DB has sought seven-day remand for Oval Group CEO Ariful, and JKG chief coordinator Sayed Chowdhury, who is the husband of JKG's owner Jebunnessa Reema, again to cross-check Sabrina's claim and interrogate them further about the fake test report scam, DB and court sources said.
The remand hearing will be held today.
Police said they found messages from Sabrina's mobile phone where she referred to herself as the chairman of JKG.
Besides, some documents, the website of an event management firm connected to JKG, and Sabrina's LinkedIn profile, mention her as the chairman of Oval Group, which was established in 2008.
But on Monday, the first day of her remand, she was still denying that she held any post at JKG.