How koi breeders uncovered alleged oxygen tank refill scam in Indonesia

The leader of a koi breeders community in Tulungagung, East Java handling oxygen tanks. Photo: Istimewa
The leader of a koi breeders community in Tulungagung, East Java handling oxygen tanks. Photo: Istimewa

A community of koi breeders and sellers in Indonesia may have saved COVID-19 patients desperate for pure oxygen from inhaling regular air, with authorities investigating an alleged oxygen tank refill scam.

The breeders, hailing from Tulungagung regency in East Java, took to social media to tell the story of how they were recently duped when refilling their oxygen tanks. The community, which regularly ships koi in plastic bags inflated with pure oxygen to customers around the country, said they have had to cut down on shipments amid an oxygen shortage in their regency.

One member of the community then found an oxygen tank refill facility in neighboring Pacitan regency, who then went down there to refill three tanks — one for koi transportation and two for COVID-19 patients.

Back in Tulungagung, the community soon found that the tanks contained regular air, as some of their koi died within 15 minutes of being put inside the inflated plastic bags.

“We then filled the bags with a reserve tank [containing pure oxygen]. Some of the fish recovered, but some were in such bad shape that they died,” community leader Alipin said.

The content of the refilled tanks did not pass the flammability test either, Alipin added.

The community’s story went viral and attracted nationwide attention, prompting local police to launch an investigation.

Aside from the alleged scam, police say they are also looking into the possibility that the refill stations are illegally profiting off of the COVID-induced oxygen supply crisis.

“[The tanks they refill] are not supposed to be for patients, they are just for koi,” East Java Police Grand Commissioner Farman said today.

In light of the koi scandal, the Tulungagung precinct urged locals to only refill their medical-use oxygen tanks at licensed distributors, which are closely supervised by the government.

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