#Fake Bhutanese Refugee Scam

How 60 people from Dang chasing American dreams were swindled out of millions of rupees

Published On: May 8, 2023 01:10 PM NPT By: Devendra Basnet

DANG, May 8: Sabina Pandit (name changed) from Ghorahi, after finding out that her sister was preparing to go to America as a Bhutanese refugee, asked her to arrange a meeting with the people as she also wanted to go to America as a refugee. Her request was passed. The two sisters decided to go to America together.

According to Pandit, they had planned to fly to America through Gajendra Budhathoki of Tulsipur and were called to Kathmandu to fill a form for the first time on April 5, 2021. They filled the form, handed over Rs 500,000 each to Budhathoki.  

Budhathoki is the person who played the role of a middleman and he said that they would be able to go to America easily. “After I told my sister that I too wanted to go to America, we both paid Rs 500,000 each to Budhathoki,” she said.

After three months, they were called to Chitwan in the fourth week of June 2021. At that time, they were called for an interview. Budhathoki arranged a pass for a car as it was during the lockdown. On reaching Chitwan, they were kept in a hotel. "We were taken to a hotel in Chitwan around 12 o'clock in the night. We were called overnight stating that there was an interview," she said. "There were people dressed as government employees, they also told us that we can easily go to America as Bhutanese refugees." They were told that the hotel was run by Ram Bahadur Thapa. At that time the sisters duo again paid one million rupees each.

They returned home from Chitwan. Again in October of the same year they were called to Biratnagar. At that time, they were called to Biratnagar to collect their identity cards of Bhutanese refugees. The person who called them in Biratnagar asked for a medical examination as the identity card of the Bhutanese refugee had arrived.

Pandit said that at that time she again paid three million rupees. "In total, I paid Rs 4.5 million rupees. After a medical examination in Biratnagar, we were asked to return home saying we would be flying to America in two or four days." However, the sisters did not fly to America.

Budhathoki, who was connected to a gang that had planned to send Nepalis to the USA in the guise of Bhutanese refugees, ran away. "We thought we would go to America within a few days. But Gajendra Budhathoki became uncontactable. We also haven’t got our 4.5 million rupees back,” said Pandit. A gang of fraudsters took millions of rupees from 60 people, including the sisters duo, promising to send them to the USA as Bhutanese refugees.

Similarly, Samir KC (name changed) of Tulsipur also lost two million rupees in the lure of becoming a Bhutanese refugee and going to America. Budhathoki was an American green card holder and Sameer had transferred the money in the hope that he would easily go to America. "Since Gajendra Budhathoki is a green card holder of America, I transferred the money thinking that he would take me there," KC said, "But he was a fraud and I have now lost my two million rupees.” Similar to Pandit, KC was also called in Kathmandu then in Chitwan for an interview and later in Biratnagar for a medical examination. According to KC, he was sent to the hotel of the son of CPN-UML leader and former home minister Ram Bahadur Thapa in Chitwan.

"I don't know the name of the hotel, because we had reached there around 12 o'clock at night," KC said, "But I heard people talking about that hotel belonging to Ram Bahadur Thapa’s son." According to him, there was also a government vehicle in the hotel at that time. "There were many vehicles there, but we heard that one belonged to the Ministry of Home Affairs," he said. "They said that they had come to interview us as a representative from the Ministry of Home Affairs," KC said, "One of them said that he was the coordinator of the team." KC said that Sandesh Sharma and Aakash Regmi of Dang were also in the team.

"I know Sandesh Sharma and Aakash Regmi as they are from Dang. I heard that a person named Sandesh has been arrested in this fraud case." KC said that he hoped that he would be able to reach America easily as there were representatives of the Ministry of Home Affairs. "In the beginning, we did not know that we would be sent to America as Bhutanese refugees," KC said. He was asked not to tell anyone that he was being sent to America as a Bhutanese refugee.

Similarly, KC mentioned that even though he was called to Biratnagar to get the identity card of the Bhutanese refugee, it was not given to him. “It was said that I would get my identity card after reaching Biratnagar as it was said to be in the refugee camp. However, they didn’t let us go to the camp. We were sent back after undergoing a health check-up in Biratnagar Medical College. At that time, they told us to be ready as we would be flying in two or three days,” said KC.

However, months have passed but their dream of flying to America remains unfulfilled. Budhathoki, who collected the money from him in the name of taking him to America, went out of contact.

Another victim, Ranjit Budha (name changed) from Tulsipur said, "Initially, when I asked for my money, he said he would give it back, but later he became contactless. “He was in touch with us till March 2022. He kept saying that he would take the initiative to return the money. After March, he became contactless,” Budha said.

He also reached Kathmandu and Chitwan and paid two million rupees to go to America. According to the victim, this gang took more than two million rupees per person from 60 people in Dang alone. “When we tried to pay by cheques, they asked for cash. They didn't accept the cheques," said Budha.

Interviews and training were conducted at night. Budha mentioned that the main person conducting the training and interviewing said that he was appointed as a coordinator by the Ministry of Home Affairs. "The man was in official dress, his identity card was hanging around his neck, but his name was not visible on the identity card," he said.

Initially, 60 people from Dang contacted the gang to go to America. Even after that, it seems that 10-15 people from Dang came in contact with the gang. "Initially, our group was of 60 people," said Ranjit Budha, "But later 10-15 people from Dang came in contact with the gang." This case came to light after a victim, who was caught in the clutches of the gang of con men, filed a complaint against Budhathoki in December 2022.

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