Home / Companies / News /  ‘Zilingo tried to sell low-quality Chinese KN95 masks to India’

NEW DELHI : Singapore-based fashion e-commerce startup Zilingo allegedly tried to dispatch “millions" of substandard Chinese KN95 masks during the covid pandemic in 2020 to India by faking third-party inspection certificates, two senior officials of the health ministry said on Tuesday.

The discrepancies were spotted by the health ministry’s central procurement agency, HLL Lifecare Ltd, formerly Hindustan Latex Ltd (HLL). “We did centralized procurement through HLL to accelerate emergency procurement. The health ministry constituted an expert panel to develop specifications for overalls, goggles and N95 masks. Besides, HLL hired an inspection agency to undertake pre-dispatch inspections at the manufacturing sites," said one of the two officials cited above.

“In one such case, a company from Singapore tried to dispatch millions of substandard Chinese KN95 masks in 2020 to India by forging third-party inspections certificate. This was discovered by the dispatch inspection team of HLL, and the bank guarantee of the supplier worth $6.75 million was encashed.

“Money is lying in a separate account in the High Commission of India in Singapore, and the issue is sub-judice," the official said. The official identified the company as Zilingo, whose CEO Ankiti Bose was fired earlier this year over complaints of alleged financial irregularities. Bose described it as wrongful termination.

A Zilingo spokesperson said, “Zilingo firmly disputes allegations of unethical behaviour and is unable to share further details as the matter is sub judice. Multiple changes in certification standards, production capacity and pricing during the initial months of the covid-19 pandemic had an impact on PPE procurement worldwide, and the company would like to discourage ill-informed speculation on this nuanced matter."

Queries mailed to the health ministry did not elicit a response.

An order for $6.75 million to be deposited with the Indian High Commission in Singapore was issued by Delhi High Court in October 2020.

HLL Lifecare was finalized in February 2020 as the central procurement agency responsible for accelerated emergency procurement of essential medical commodities for the covid-19 pandemic.

“HLL supported the central procurement division in the preparation of bidding documents as well as in bidding, evaluation and award of the contract," the other official said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Priyanka Sharma

Priyanka Shamra is a health and pharma journalist with nearly nine years of field reporting experience. She is a special correspondent with Mint. Her beat includes covering the Ministry of Health and Department of Pharmaceuticals. She also covers the Ministry of Women and Child Development and the Department of Biotechnology.
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