Govt attorney books 30 suspects in Nepal's fake Bhutanese refugee scam

District Prosecutor's Office in Kathmandu filed 224-page charge-sheet at the Kathmandu District Court on Wednesday afternoon against the accused 16 of whom are in police custody and 14 are absconders.

ANI | Updated: 24-05-2023 21:11 IST | Created: 24-05-2023 21:11 IST
Govt attorney books 30 suspects in Nepal's fake Bhutanese refugee scam
Representative Image. Image Credit: ANI
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District Public Prosecutor's Office Kathmandu has formally registered a case against 30 suspects over the high-profile fake Bhutanese refugee scam. District Prosecutor's Office in Kathmandu filed 224-page charge-sheet at the Kathmandu District Court on Wednesday afternoon against the accused 16 of whom are in police custody and 14 are absconders.

"Those arrested have been accused of five types of charges including fraud, organized crime, crime against the state, official corruption and integrated crime," Lakshman Upahyaya, Spokesperson at the District Public Prosecutor's Office of Kathmandu confirmed to ANI over phone. "Claim amount of 288.4 million Nepali rupees also has been registered along with the case," the official added.

The first phase of the fake Bhutanese refugee scam involves two former ministers, a former House speaker, government administrators and their intermediaries. Nepal's former Home Minister and opposition CPN-UML leader Top Bahadur Rayamajhi, Nepali Congress leader and former Home Minister Bal Krishna Khand, former speaker Ang Tawa Sherpa, and former home secretary Tek Narayan Pandey have been named in the court document who also are in police custody.

Exiled Bhutanese refugee leader Tek Nath Rizal is among those in judicial custody. Others arrested in the case are Keshav Dulal, Sanu Bhandari, Tanka Kumar Gurung, Sandesh Gurung, Sagar Rai, Sandeep Rayamajhi (Son of Top Bahadur Rayamajhi), Indrajit Rai, Bal Krishna Khand's personal secretary Narendra KC, Ram Sharan KC, Govinda Chaudhary and Shamsher Miya. The Kathmandu District Court has issued arrest warrants for former home minister Ram Bahadur Thapa's son Prateek, Indrajit Rai's son Niraj and other intermediaries. Upon registering the case with the court on Thursday based on the 60 days investigation by the police and the suggestions from them, the District Attorney's Office also has directed to continue the investigation dividing it into another phase.

The case of a fake Bhutanese refugee scam came to the limelight in April after the publication of an investigative piece through the grant of the Center for Investigative Journalism- Nepal. With mounting pressure, the incumbent Nepal Home Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha directed Police bodies to carry out the investigation. The scam slowly came to understanding after Police apprehended Tek Narayan Pandey, the incumbent Secretary at Vice President's Office and former Home Secretary. Data and documents retrieved from the possession of Pandey busted the scam web which has been completed for the first phase.

The data and documents retrieved by police during the investigation exposed how Nepalis were swindled out of millions of rupees in return for sending them to the United States as Bhutanese refugees. A total of 106 victims have registered complaints to the police noting that the fraudsters fleeced over Nepali Rupees (NR) 232.5 million from them over different times. The case further came into the limelight when an arrest warrant was issued against chief opposition CPN-UML Secretary Top Bahadur Rayamajhi, his (Top Bahadur) son Sandeep and Prateek Thapa, the son of former Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa.

A police investigation has revealed that government officials have been helping the racketeers to obtain the fake document from the Home Ministry which worked as certification for them to send Nepali nationals as Bhutanese refugees to the US. On June 14, 2022, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Nepal Police launched an investigation into a criminal group involved in a case of fraud. The group had allegedly been scamming people for years by promising to send them to the US as Bhutaneserefugees.

The government action came in response to a case registered by the victims at the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority against the group a few months earlier. The case was brought to the Kathmandu Valley Crime Division only in June 2022 after which the investigation was launched. The group has allegedly swindled over 875 people from different places in Nepal of millions of rupees. The Police investigation found suspects collecting between one to five million Nepali rupees per head promising to send them to the US as Bhutanese refugees.

After 1990, Nepal witnessed a huge influx of Nepali-speaking Bhutanese nationals who were expelled from their country by the Bhutanese government in a massive ethnic cleansing drive. The refugees were kept in several refugee camps in Morang and Jhapa districts. After a series of bilateral talks between Nepal and Bhutan failed, the international communityled by the United Nations refugee agency started resettling the refugees in third countries, mostly in the US and Europe.

Between 2007 and 2016, the UNHCR helped resettle more than 113,500 Bhutanese refugees in eight countries in one of the largest resettlement programs globally. Nepal's Home Ministry had formed a task force to find out the ways for remaining Bhutanese refugees who were denied resettlement. The investigative report by CIJ disclosed the infiltration by a government official- Rai in the report where he managed to manipulate the number of "left out" refugees for resettlement. (ANI)

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

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