Court remands restaurant's managers to police custody in Karachi

Forensic analysis had established that the two minors died of food poisoning after eating at the restaurant


Sajid Rauf December 20, 2018
PHOTO: SCREENSHOT/FILE

KARACHI: Two employees of a high-end eatery in Karachi were remanded to police custody for three days by a local court on Wednesday. The accused, who were arrested on Tuesday night by Saahil Police, were presented before the District South Judicial Magistrate in the case pertaining to the deaths of two minors, after the latter had consumed food at the Arizona Grill restaurant located on main Zamzama Boulevard.

The arrested accused were identified as Adnan Ali, who is the manager of the said eatery, and Amir Sheikh, who is a general manager of Stream Trading International - one of the subsidiaries of the conglomerate that owns Arizona Grill. The Investigation Officer told the court that other accused are currently on the run and efforts are being made for their arrest. They include Kamran Tajammul, administration manager Ashraf and the restaurant's chef, Abid. Meanwhile, the restaurant's owner, Nadeem Mumtaz Raja has already acquired pre-arrest bail.

The case

Two minor brothers, one-and-a-half year old Ahmed and four-year-old Muhammad, died of 'food poisoning' and their mother, Ayesha, was hospitalised after dining out at the restaurant last month.

The next day, the restaurant was sealed by the Sindh Food Authority (SFA) while around 60 samples were sent for forensic analysis to determine the cause of the children's deaths.

Two minors die after dining out at high-end Karachi restaurant

Later, the SFA had discovered a warehouse, where the restaurant's staff had allegedly stored expired meat and other inventory. The meat was found to have been imported in 2014 and according to the inscription on the packets, it was supposed to have been used by February 24, 2015.

Investigations

Police had registered a case against the restaurant's owner and other accused under Sections 322 [murder] 272 [Adulteration of food or drink intended for sale], 34 [common intention] of the Pakistan Penal Code on the complaint of the victims' father.

According to police sources, the samples obtained from the restaurant and the deceased's viscera were sent to three different laboratories for forensic analysis. The investigation team had received the results in the beginning of December. Unable to decipher the technical jargon contained in the reports, the investigation team had then reached out to medical and legal experts to ascertain what they meant. What was finally established was that the minor brothers died from food poisoning after they had consumed food from the eatery.

DIG's brief

Addressing a press conference on Wednesday, District South DIG Javed Alam Odho said that the food samples tested by the laboratories contained an excessive amount of dangerous bacteria. The victims, he said, suffered from acute dehydration after consuming the food and died from renal failure.

The DIG was flanked by the South SSP, Investigations SP Tariq Dharejo and Clifton SP Suhai Aziz at the press conference, where he briefed the media about the progress of the investigation into the November 10 incident.

According to the DIG, the police faced many obstacles during the course of the investigations, largely because the case depended on forensic evidence. Another possibility that the investigation team explored was if the victims has been poisoned or had consumed poison themselves.

DIG Odho said that the post mortem was a major issue for the family, but they cooperated with the police, for which he expressed gratitude. It was also a struggle to acquire the samples of food that the family had consumed. A long list was prepared.

All the samples were not only collected using modern techniques, but also kept under controlled temperature. The samples were then sealed and dispatched to the three most reliable laboratories.

Of the 60 samples sent for testing, the DIG said, 30 were sent to the Punjab Forensic Science Agency, which included drinking water, milk and other food items present in the victims' house. The victims' organs preserved after the post mortem were also sent to Punjab Forensic Science Agency.

Another seven samples, including food and vomit specimen, were sent to the Karachi University's Hussain Ebrahim Jamal Institute of Chemistry. The third institution was the International SGS Laboratory located in Korangi, where 17 samples were sent. These included specimens collected from the restaurant.

Food poisoning case: Investigation team calls for other diners to come forward

Unsatisfactory response

DIG Odho told the press conference that the Arizona Grill's management had failed to give satisfactory responses to their queries. These included questions like where they got their inventory, for how long was it stored and what were the preservation methods to ensure their quality.

He added that meat, which had expired in 2015, was found in the restaurant's store. The restaurant owner had later claimed that the meat was meant for another venture, which had never opened. DIG Odho expressed the opinion that the meat, even if this was true, should have been disposed of as its presence in the storage facility with other goods was harmful for the consumers.

Speaking about the case, the DIG said that two accused had been remanded to police custody, while the restaurant's owner had obtained pre-arrest bail. He added that efforts were being made to get the owner's bail annulled.

With additional input by Nasir Butt

Published in The Express Tribune, December 20th, 2018.

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