KATHMANDU, June 4: Three former Nepal Police officials have rallied around the undercover cops indicted in the high-profile gold smuggling case, saying that the officers were discharging their duties as per order received from the higher authorities.
A group of police officers including SSP Dibesh Lohani, who led a covert operation to arrest Chudamani Uprety alias Gore, the main suspect behind the high profile gold smuggling case, are undergoing trail for their alleged role in gold smuggling and aiding in murder of Sanam Shakya, a gold trader who concurrently worked as an aide of Gore.
The racket had smuggled nearly 3,800 kg gold since July 2015, according to the finding of a panel led by Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Home Affairs Ishwar Poudel.
Talking to a group of journalist in Lalitpur on Sunday, former AIG Rajendra Bhandari and former DIGs Hemanta Malla and Ramesh Kharel jointly expressed their dissatisfaction over what they called “hasty arrests” of undercover officers without carrying out any internal interrogation as prescribed in the Nepal Police regulations.
“Nepal Police should have carried out thorough investigation on its own as per the police regulations before sending them to judicial custody. There was no need to arrest them in haste,” said Bhandari.
The former officers, who had undertaken similar covert operations during their tenure, said that Lohani and sub-inspector Bal Krishna Sanjel, who accepted an offer of Rs 200 million to hand over Shakya’s corpse as part of a covert operation to arrest Gore was something that any undercover officer would have done.
Lohani has said that he accepted the offer as it was the only way to nab Gore. In his statement, Lohani has further stated that he accepted the offer after seeking permission from acting IGP Bom Bahadur Bhandari, a claim confirmed by the latter in his statement. That the police headquarters had sanctioned the undercover operation was also revealed in a leaked audio conversation purportedly between Lohani and AIG Bhandari. But in a charge sheet, the District Attorney Office, Sunsari, has accused the undercover officers of facilitating the smuggling of gold and aiding in Shakya’s murder for monetary returns. The plaintiff has also questioned whether the undercover officers were acting in good faith.
“When you raise question on the intentions of undercover officers, no one would be willing to take on similar work in the future. This could have serious repercussions in the long run,” said DIG Malla.
The former officials said that they were forced to come forward in support of the undercover officers due to sustained silence of the Nepal Police headquarters.
Former DIG Kharel said that former IGP Prakash Aryal had shown ‘ineptitude’ in not defending the undercover officers who were doing their jobs putting their lives at risk.
“Dibesh and Sanjel are diligent officers who have long worked as undercover despite immense risks involved. The institution’s inability to defend them will dampen the spirit of other honest officers,” said Kharel. He said that the police administration was committing a serious mistake by putting both corrupt officers and undercover officers in the same basket.
Stating that the current panel has shown several lapses in the investigation into the matter, the former police officers opined that a commission should be formed to investigate the gold smuggling case.
DIG Bhandari said that the investigation will never be able to shed light on the extent of gold smuggling unless a thorough investigation is carried out in the country of origin, transit countries and the destination countries.
“The investigation will lead nowhere if we fail to take the probe beyond Gore and his associates.”