Social media posts about Devender Sharma, an Ayurveda practitioner-turned-organ harvester-cum-serial killer, shared with captions claiming that he fabricated false COVID-19 positive reports for patients who were apparently without the disease in order to get them admitted for kidney harvesting, are false.
BOOM reached out to Rakesh Paweria, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime Branch) of Delhi Police, who refuted the claims and stated that Sharma's killings happened long before the COVID-19 pandemic, and that there are no new murder charges against him since he got out of parole in January.
Sharma, who spent 16 years in jail between 2004 and 2020 for being convicted for over 50 murders, was out on parole in January for good behaviour. He reportedly jumped parole in February, and absconded for 6 months, before he was apprehended again by the Delhi Police on July 29.
Sharma holds a Bachelor's degree in Ayurveda, Medicine and Surgery (BAMS), and has cases filed against him in Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. While news reports have referred to him as a doctor, we were not independently able to confirm whether he holds an MBBS degree. He's currently under the custody of Delhi Police.
BOOM found a Times of India article being shared by a page called United Social Club of Africa-international, with the following caption:
"Delhi police arrested a doctor who killed 125 patients on the pretext of COVID 19 Positive for kidney trade. When interrogated where about the killed patients, he fed them to crocodile."
Similar claims were also made on Twitter, with users sharing the same Times of India article on Sharma.
BOOM also received a screenshot of a Hindi newspaper article on Sharma along with an image of him being nabbed by the police, with a Hindi caption making the same claim.
Upon searching on Facebook with keywords in Hindi, we found the same article, and image of Sharma being shared with Hindi captions that put forward the viral claim.
BOOM accessed the viral Times of India article that was shared with the English captions, which spoke at length about Sharma's criminal history and his recent capture.
According to the article, Sharma spent 16 years in prison from 2004-2020, after murdering 100s of people as part of a gang between 1994 and 2004. The article states that Sharma was let out on parole on January 28, 2020 for good behaviour, after which he jumped parole and absconded for 6 more months before being nabbed again.
It also goes on to mention that Sharma's criminal activity during this time was limited to attempts at conning people and fabricating various identity, along with jumping parole. The article makes no mention of any fresh murders by Sharma this year, nor does it link him with COVID-19 in anyway.
BOOM also accessed news reports by India Today, The Wire, NDTV and Navbharat Times on Sharma's arrest last week. While each article gave a different count of the number of murders committed or facilitated by Sharma, none of them linked him to using COVID-19 as an excuse to admit patients to harvest their organs, as claimed by the viral posts.
Finally, we reached out to Delhi Police who refuted the claims that linked Sharma to a COVID-19 scandal. DCP Rakesh Pawria of Delhi Police (Crime Branch), who led the investigation that led to Sharma's capture, told BOOM that the entire kidney racket happened decades ago.
"This kidney racket happened long ago, and he was apprehended for it in 2004. There was no coronavirus pandemic back them, so how can this be true?" he said. On being asked whether there were any new murder charges against him since he left parole, Paweria said, "There's nothing."
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