After having its former chief executive fired from the company (and having the same executive attempt to buy the company back afterwards) among an entire series of other scandals, local startup Zilingo seems to be in hot soup once again.
This time, however, the scandal is about the fact that Zilingo, a local fashion-commerce startup started by two Indian nationals in Singapore, apparently tried to ship “millions” of low-quality KN95 masks from China to India in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic first started.
The startup even forged certificates in order to pass the inspections in India.
And if you’re already completely lost with regards to what I’ve just said, here’s all you need to know before we continue.
And yes, having scandals in Singapore means that your name won’t ever be forgotten, no matter how long it’s been.
Zilingo Tried to Ship Low-Quality N95 Masks to India During the COVID-19 Pandemic
On Tuesday (30 August), two senior officials from the Health Ministry in India announced that Zilingo had apparently attempted to send millions of “substandard” KN95 masks to India back in 2020.
These masks were imported from China, and the company even produced fake third-party inspection certificates in order to pass the relevant inspections.
Central Procurement Agency Found Disrepancies Within Stocks
After the company’s attempt to do so, inconsistencies in the stocks that Zilingo had shipped to India were picked up by the local central procurement agency, which led to the agency conducting centralised procurement to “accelerate emergency procurement”.
HLL Lifecare Ltd, previously known as Hindustan Latex Ltd (HLL), was the agency that spotted the discrepancies.
As the central procurement agency of the Ministry of Health in India, it was finalised in 2020 and has been in charge of procuring “essential medical commodities” for the COVID-19 pandemic since then.
“HLL supported the central procurement division in the preparation of bidding documents as well as in bidding, evaluation and award of the contract,” one of the officials clarified.
“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,” the other official explained.
The same official also explained that “a company from Singapore”, later identified as Zilingo, had tried to send millions of poor-quality masks into the country.
Zilingo’s Bank Guarantee Worth $6.75 million Got Encashed
The company’s bank guarantee of $6.75 million was also soon encashed after an inspection team found out that the masks did not meet the quality standards.
In particular, the Delhi High Court ordered $6.75 million to be transferred to the Indian High Commission in Singapore in October 2020.
“Money is lying in a separate account in the High Commission of India in Singapore, and the issue is sub judice,” the official noted.
As of now, Zilingo has yet to reveal much about the situation that it has gotten itself into.
However, a Zilingo spokesperson did clarify that the company “firmly disputes allegations of unethical behaviour” and is currently not able to provide any more information since the case is still 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,” the Zilingo spokesperson said.
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