The saga of 33 kg gold smuggling continues to surprise us, dragging laborers to suppliers to senior police officials in the scam. One after other report, some of them conflicting, has made the issue more complicated than it first appeared. A man has been murdered in the game of hiding evidence and preventing the eye witness to report the truth. The stories remind the plot of detective crime fiction in which the real culprits remain hidden or whose identity is revealed only at the end, by which a number of people, mostly innocents, are either killed or made to suffer for no fault of their own, before the mastermind is tracked down and prosecuted. It is disappointing that Nepal Police has not become able to get to the bottom of the case even after months of rigorous investigation. We hope police will soon become able to take the investigation to the logical end and bring the guilty to the book.
The arrest of Chudamani Uprety aka Gore, the alleged ‘kingpin’ of smuggling and alleged murderer of Sanam Shakya, is a big development in the investigation. But it has also brought to the fore numerous issues. Shakya was allegedly used by Gore to smuggle gold from Dubai. Gore, we have been told, killed Shakya for making off with 33 kg smuggled through Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) in January, 2017. But Gore denies killing Sanam. In a ‘confession’ video apparently filmed by Gore himself prior to his arrest he claims he was going to surrender as his life was under threat from the “owners of the smuggled gold.” He claims he did not kill Sanam and that he was at large because gold owners were pressuring him to either come up with the missing gold or pay for it in cash, which he says he had no means to do. Meanwhile, joint-secretary Ishwar Paudel, the coordinator of high-level investigation committee formed by the home ministry, has reported that Gore has disclosed further information and handed over evidence about involvement of 65 individuals in smuggling and subsequent abduction and murder. Paudel has also informed that interrogation of Gore has uncovered involvement of individuals other than the 65 already accused. Who are they? The higher up officials from TIA? Civil aviation authority itself? Or, political leaders?
There is an impression, and legitimate one, among people that smuggling of such a massive scale could not have been possible without involvement of and protection from political leaders. Besides, there is a fear that, like in the past, only small fishes will be tried while real culprits are rarely apprehended, let alone investigated and punished. This should not happen in this particular case and now onward. All the suspects, whatever their connections with power centers, need to be traced and investigated. Nepal cannot afford to remain a smuggling hub. Gold smuggling case is becoming the first test case for communist government headed by K P Oli. His commitment to the rule of law will hold substance when the home ministry will be able to track down all perpetrators and jail them. The onus is on the home ministry, police department, and finally the office of the prime minister as well.