A Bangladesh hospital owner accused of issuing thousands of fake negative coronavirus test results to patients at his two clinics was arrested on Wednesday while trying to flee to India in a burqa, police said.
The arrest marked the end of a nine-day manhunt for Mohammad Shahed over allegations of issuing fake certificates to patients saying they were virus-free without even testing them.
Shahed, 42, was one of more than a dozen people detained by authorities over the past few days in connection with the scam.
Experts warn the false documents have worsened the already dire situation in the country of 168 million people by casting doubt about the veracity of certificates issued by clinics.
“He was arrested from the bank of a border river as he was trying to flee to India. He was wearing a burqa,” Rapid Action Battalion spokesman Colonel Ashique Billah told the AFP news agency.
“His hospitals carried out 10,500 coronavirus tests, out of which 4,200 were genuine and the rest, 6,300 test reports, were given without conducting tests.”
Shahed is also accused of charging for the certificates and COVID-19 treatments even though he had agreed with the government that his hospitals in the capital Dhaka would provide free care.
The alleged scams could badly hurt migrant workers seeking to go abroad and whose remittances are key to Bangladesh’s economy, said Shakirul Islam of migrant rights group OKUP.
Italy last week suspended flights to Rome from Bangladesh to stem the spate of coronavirus cases. Several passengers arriving from Dhaka had tested positive for COVID-19.
Fearing possible infections in the Bangladeshi immigrant community, authorities in Lazio region conducted “blanket testing” for the coronavirus. Italy is home to more than 100,000 Bangladeshis, according to national statistics institute ISTAT.
“Some of the Bangladeshis who were tested positive in Italy were allegedly carrying negative COVID certificates from Bangladesh,” Islam claimed.