The high-profiles who appeared on the investigation radar but were not prosecuted
May 22, 2023 02:50 PM NPT
By: Arun Bam
KATHMANDU, MAY 22: Nepal Police is being praised for detaining “high profile” people in connection with the fake Bhutanese refugee scam.
At a time when government bodies face the accusation of being or being made ineffective, the daring investigation into the fake Bhutanese refugee scam by the police has raised hopes for the rule of law.
On the one hand, the police investigation is being praised, on the other hand, doubts are being expressed over the investigation.
While the police report is being prepared, not all the "VIPs" seen on the radar of the investigation have been caught. One of the VIPs who appeared on the radar but was not investigated is Ram Bahadur Thapa, vice- chairman of CPN-UML and former home minister. Many angles of this case collide with Thapa. The police investigation has penetrated into his secretariat and house but Thapa has not been dragged into the investigation. When he was the home minister, the gang was organized and the policy decision was also taken at that time.
The police claim that evidence has been found that former home minister Thapa's security advisor Indrajit Rai and his son Prateek were involved in the fake Bhutanese refugee scam.
Thapa kept his son Prateek as his personal secretary when he was the home minister. In the fake Bhutanese refugee scam, the police found the involvement of Niraj, the son of former home minister Thapa's security advisor Indrajit Rai. Sources say that Indrajit, Niraj and Prateek have been found to have received millions of rupees from the gang.
It is claimed that Indrajit has repeatedly received Rs 50 million and Prateek received at least Rs 10 million.
The police, having found grounds to confirm their involvement, issued arrest warrants against all three and proceeded with the investigation. Indrajit has been arrested while Prateek and Niraj are still on the run.
The case with former home minister Thapa is not only related to the involvement of his son Prateek and security advisor Rai and his son, the gang started collecting money when Thapa was the home minister.
Thapa formed a task force to study the Bhutanese refugees under the coordination of Bal Krishna Panthi, the then joint secretary of the ministry, on June 13, 2019 through a ministerial decision.
It has been revealed that it was prepared in the 'design' of the same gang members. It has become clear that the task force was created not to solve the real refugee problem, but to raise money by producing fake refugees.
Despite this, the fact that Thapa is not being directly dragged in the police investigation has raised some suspicions. According to the police officials, Thapa is not even an outsider of this case and he is aware of this case from the beginning. “Without his involvement, it was impossible for the gang to start working. Again, it is clear that he is involved in this case as the Secretariat and his own family members are involved. He is well aware about the mechanism of this case,” says a police officer investigating the scam, “ But due to the lack of concrete evidence, he could not be arrested. The police did not arrest him because of weak evidence.”
According to the police officer, the gang has given a statement that even Thapa’s wife Nainkala Thapa has received a worthy amount for sending Nepalis to the US as fake Bhutanese refugees.
During the formation of the task force under the leadership of Panthi, Premkumar Rai who is currently the chief of the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority(CIAA) was the home secretary.
Former home minister Thapa received the report and handed it over to Chief Commissioner Rai. Chief Commissioner Rai sent the report to the local administration branch and retired shortly thereafter. Rai has also told Republica that Panthi, who is receiving pension from the government even after receiving the report, has warned that if the report is different, the pension will be forfeited.
After CIAA Chief Commissioner Rai was linked to this case in one way or another, he has been saying that he is not involved in this case. He has also said that he has no involvement in the formation of the Panthi-led task force.
Regarding the fraud complaints received by the CIAA, he has also given information that since the fraud is not within the jurisdiction of the CIAA, he has suggested complainants to visit the Kathmandu Valley Crime Investigation Office or Central Investigation Bureau (CIB).
A police official said that Rai is also being investigated but no strong evidence has been found so far. “Investigation takes place when there is suspicion,” said the official, “But no serious evidence has been found against him.”
Similarly, while the police investigation is ongoing, an audiotape has been released saying that members of the gang have provided millions of rupees to Nepali Congress MPs Arzu Rana Deuba and Manju Khand.
Arzu is the wife of Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba and Manju is the wife of Nepali Congress leader and former home minister Bal Krishna Khand who is in police custody for investigation. After the audiotape with her name was released, Arzu publicly said it was fake. She has also lodged a complaint at the CIB of Nepal Police for fact-checking of the released audio.
Former home minister Khand's wife Manju has not given any explanation publicly. After her husband Bal Krishna Khand was arrested by the police, she was not seen in public for a few days and attended the House of Representatives meeting on Friday.
Police are investigating the audiotape. “Every matter that props up during the investigation is naturally scrutinized. But in this released audio, it is heard that there was a conversation between a third person,” says Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Dan Bahadur Karki, who is leading the investigation, District Police Range Kathmandu, “There should be a basis to confirm that the money was received. We will arrest whoever is found to be involved.”
According to the police officer actively taking part in the investigation, one of the members of the gang who was arrested has also listed out the name of Rajesh Bajracharya, the personal secretary of CPN-UML Chairman and former Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli. But he has not been directly investigated by the police.
The police claimed that only those against whom concrete evidence was found were taken into custody and further investigation was carried out.
“We have not arrested anyone or taken an arrest warrant on the basis of one person's statement or on the basis of a one-sided suspicion,” says a senior officer involved in the investigation, “The investigations are also being conducted against those who are accused or suspected. Due to the lack of concrete evidence, there are no such legal conditions to arrest them.”
In the case of fake Bhutanese refugees, the police are preparing to submit a report including those who have been arrested and those who are absconding, saying that no strong evidence has been found about some of the VIPs seen on the radar of the investigation.
So far, the police have arrested 16 people and have taken arrest warrants against 15 to 16 other people. Among those arrested are former Deputy Prime Minister and CPN-UML Secretary Top Bahadur Rayamajhi, former Home Minister and Nepali Congress leader Bal krishna Khand, Vice President Office Secretary (currently suspended) Tek Narayan Pandey, the Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa's security advisor Indrajit Rai, Nepali Congress leader Angtawa Sherpa and Bhutanese refugee leader Teknath Rijal. Others arrested have collected money from gang members, middlemen and the general public. About 15 to 16 people are absconding including former Home Minister Thapa's son Prateek and security advisor Indrajit's son Niraj.
In the case of a fake Bhutanese refugee scam, the police are preparing to submit a report including those who have been arrested and those who are absconding, saying that no strong evidence has been found about some of the VIPs seen on the radar of the investigation.
As the police are investigating this case according to the Prevention of Organized Crime Act, 2070, the time limit is for 60 days. According to which, by Tuesday, the accused in this case should be prosecuted and registered in the District Court Kathmandu.