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Govt committee unearthed insurance scam by Nepal's trekking, mountaineering agencies

There were widespread complaints that Nepal’s trekking and mountaineering agencies had been making claims against their customers’ tourist insurance policies for fake helicopter rescues.

PTI Last Updated at 31 Jul 2018, 13:07 IST Nepal

A major insurance scam by Nepal's trekking and mountaineering agencies has been unearthed after a government probe found that they were involved in fake helicopter rescues and hospital treatment of foreign tourists, according to a media report.

A government fact-finding committee in its 700-page probe report to Tourism Minister Rabindra Adhikari said that unscrupulous operators have been pocketing thousands of dollars from insurance companies by making multiple claims for a single chopper ride or pushing trekkers to agree to airlifts for minor illnesses, the Kathmandu Post reported.

There were widespread complaints that Nepal's trekking and mountaineering agencies had been making claims against their customers' tourist insurance policies for fake helicopter rescues.

They have been accused of presenting fake bills for wide-ranging medical examinations for simple altitude-related headaches.

As many helicopter operators do not conduct rescue operations directly, "middlemen" or trekking and mountaineering agencies arrange helicopter rescues and make fake private clinic bills on which they get a hefty commission, the daily quoted a member of the fact-finding panel as saying.

"Making false travel insurance sickness claims when you are not ill is fraud, and there are many agencies involved in the illegal business in Nepal," the unnamed official was quoted as saying.

Trekking companies get hefty kickbacks when hikers are evacuated from the mountains.

The committee said in its report that there have been widespread complaints of dishonest companies serving adulterated food to make tourists sick so that they can be evacuated by helicopter, and they can receive commissions from helicopter companies and hospitals and clinics.

The probe committee recommended that from the next tourist season in September-November all rescue activities be entrusted to the Nepal Police to stop the insurance scam that has damaged the country's reputation.

"We are concerned by the bogus helicopter rescues and false medical insurance claims. In order to stop such offenses, we have decided to entrust all tourist rescue-related tasks to the Nepal Police," said Tourism Secretary Krishna Prasad Devkota.

"We will prepare a working guideline related to the rescue operation and implement it from the autumn season," he said.

The fact-finding committee said that it had formed its recommendations after studying rescue operations in France, Switzerland, Scotland, and Canada.

The committee has suggested making it mandatory for tourists to go with a guide if they are trekking at elevations above 3,000 meters.

The committee report has urged the government to investigate the transactions of eight travel, trekking and rescue agencies, four hospitals and three helicopter companies for quoting exorbitant rates and making claims against tourist insurance policies.

The committee has suspected that they may be involved in tax evasion.

The panel probed 10 helicopter companies, six hospitals, and 36 travel, trekking and rescue agencies following complaints filed by tourism entrepreneurs.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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