News

Disgraced Canadian researcher faces criminal charges for fraud

BMJ 2016; 354 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i4699 (Published 30 August 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;354:i4699
  1. Caroline White
  1. London

Ranjit Kumar Chandra, the disgraced Canadian researcher who lost his libel case last summer against the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), which had accused him of research fraud and financial deception, is to face criminal charges for defrauding the publicly funded Ontario Health Insurance Plan.

Detective staff sergeant Dorian Dwyer confirmed that the Ontario Provincial Police Health Fraud Investigation Unit, on behalf of the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, has issued a warrant for Chandra’s arrest for the “unlawful billing” of the province’s health plan of sums in excess of $C5000 (£2900; €3400; $3800). The exact figures are not yet known because investigations into the extent of the false reimbursement claims are ongoing, Dwyer said.

The deception was discovered during routine verification checks in which randomly selected health plan users were asked to confirm the details of treatment received and claimed for by individual medical practitioners or healthcare providers. Details of the investigation triggered by the checks were not being made public, so it was unclear how many “negative verification letters” were returned for Chandra, or over what period.

Defrauding public funds carries a maximum prison sentence of up to 14 years, with fraud of more than $C1m carrying a minimum jail sentence of two years, said Dwyer.

When Chandra lost his defamation and loss of privacy case against CBC he was ordered to pay the broadcaster just over $C1.6m in costs.1 But Lynn Burgess, the producer of a trio of programmes that prompted the lawsuit, told The BMJ, “He hasn’t paid a cent,” adding, “We’re going to watch this case to see if it gives us access to any information about his accounts.”

The state health plan may yet recover its losses, Dwyer said. He explained, “There are mechanisms in place to make a recovery, and the criminal courts may order restitution and/or forfeiture of assets.”

Chandra is registered in Ontario as working at clinics in Brampton and Toronto. Two of the clinics that The BMJ managed to contact in Brampton confirmed that Chandra had not been working there for between two and three months but would not say why he had left. The number at his primary registered practice seemed to be out of order.

Chandra is now believed to be in India, where he is managing director of Peridot Life Sciences, a company that sells nutritional supplements.

Ontario’s professional regulator, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO), has confirmed that it too was investigating Chandra but was forbidden by law from revealing further details at this stage.

Kathryn Clarke, the college’s senior communications coordinator, said, “We have the authority to impose sanctions that apply only to his Ontario certificate of registration. However, CPSO broadly disseminates discipline decisions to jurisdictions, hospitals, and other institutions in Canada, and to all US and some international regulators, such as the GMC [UK General Medical Council].”

Prompted by the outcome of the CBC trial four more of Chandra’s research papers have been retracted over the past year: one in The BMJ,2 one in the Lancet,3 and two in Nutrition Research.4

And in December 2015 Chandra was stripped of the prestigious Order of Canada, to which he had been appointed in 1989 for outstanding achievement and service to the nation.

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