Victims of fake Bhutanese refugee scam were taken to Chitwan using home ministry’s vehicle during lockdown

Published On: May 10, 2023 08:00 PM NPT By: Devendra Basnet

DANG, May 10: Lakshmi Regmi (name changed) of Dang, who had paid Rs 500,000 to fly to America two years ago, was asked to go to Chitwan three months after paying the amount. It was told that she would fly directly to America after going to Chitwan.

She got in touch with a 'broker' through a relative to go to America. She reached Kathmandu for the first time on April 5, 2021 and paid Rs 500,000. At that time, she was called from Dang to Kathmandu to fill a form.

After filling the form to fly to America, Regmi was told that the process of her journey to America has started. Gajendra Budhathoki of Tulsipur, who has the PR of America, told Regmi that she would be sent to America easily. "I decided to go because the American green card holder said that it would be easy to get to America," said Regmi.

Around the third week of June 2022, she was suddenly asked to go to Chitwan. She was in Kathmandu when she was called to Chitwan for an interview to fly to America. She was in Kathmandu for the treatment of her sick father and did not want to leave her sick father alone.

There was also a strict lockdown due to COVID-19 pandemic. The means of transport were at a standstill. "I got a call that I had to go to Chitwan for an interview immediately," she said. "I was in a dilemma as I could not leave my sick father alone. Also, due to the lockdown, the means of transportation were halted.” However, she was lured to go to Chitwan if she wanted to fly to the USA and was told that she had to go there for just a day.

Regmi agreed to go to Chitwan, entrusting her sick father to relatives. However, it was quite challenging for her to go to Chitwan during the lockdown period. "I was asked not to worry about how to reach Chitwan," she said.

A government car went to pick up Regmi. The vehicle belonged to the Ministry of Home Affairs. "The Home Ministry vehicle came to pick me up," she said. "I was the only woman in that vehicle. There was another man along with the driver. The other person was Akash Regmi of Dang.”

After traveling to Chitwan in the vehicle of the Home Ministry, Regmi was confident that she would soon realize her American dream. "As I was picked up in the vehicle of the ministry, I believed that my dream of traveling to America would come true," she said.

The trip to Chitwan ended late at night. At night, she was taken to a hotel in Chitwan, whose owner was said to be the son of former Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa. 

"We had dinner on the way at night," she said. "We reached Chitwan at 12 o'clock at night and were taken to a hotel." According to Regmi, they were told to give interviews at night. There, she met more than 60 people from Dang who dreamed of flying to America like her and had reached Chitwan.

Regmi along with others received orientation from a person who claimed to be a representative of the home ministry. “That person introduced himself as the person appointed by the Ministry of Home Affairs as the coordinator. But that man was not in the car with us," said Regmi adding that she could not recognize his face because the person was wearing a mask.

During the orientation that started at night, Regmi found out that they were being flown to America as fake Bhutanese refugees. They said that at that time Nepali citizenship should be torn and a new identity card would be issued. "They said that we should tear out Nepali citizenship while a new identity card would be issued," she said.

During the trip to Chitwan, Regmi’s name was changed. She does not remember her new name at present. "They took one million rupees each from all of us saying that we would fly to America soon," she said.

The gang collected a total of Rs 4.5 million rupees from Regmi, among which Rs 500,000 was collected in Kathmandu and Rs 1.5 million in Chitwan. However, her dream of flying to America remained unfulfilled. 

“They haven’t returned even a single rupee from the amount of Rs 4.5 million I paid them. It has been very difficult for me,” she said.

The process that started in April 2021 did not materialize till April 2022 when she finally realized that she was being duped. Her contact person Gajendra Budhathoki, the green card holder of US, was already contactless by that time.

Another victim Ramesh KC (name changed) of Tulsipur said that Budathoki assured to return his money but later became contactless.

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