Fake Bhutanese Refugee Scam: Police preparing to arrest about a dozen more people including ‘VIPs’ while lobbying starts to protect the accused

Published On: May 5, 2023 05:20 PM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

Oli meets Prime Minister Dahal

KATHMANDU, May 5: Bargaining has begun between the top leaders of the major political parties to protect the 'VIPs' who have been arrested on the charge of being involved in a gang that is cheating Nepalis by turning them into fake Bhutanese refugees and sending them to America.

After the police investigation into the fraud gang also pointed towards the leaders of the political parties and high-ranking officials of the government, the top level leaders started bargaining to save them. Sources say that bargaining has started from power center to opposition.

The police have started an investigation in connection with the gang that is cheating Nepali people by making them fake Bhutanese refugees and sending them to America. The investigation so far has shown the alleged involvement of former Deputy Prime Minister and UML Secretary Top Bahadur Rayamajhi, his son Sandeep, Vice President Office Secretary Teknarayan Pandey (previously Home Ministry Secretary), UML Vice Chairman and former Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa's son Prateek, Indrajit Rai who was the security adviser to Thapa when he was the Home Minister, and his son Niraj. 

Secretary Pandey, former security adviser Rai, former deputy prime minister and UML Secretary Rayamajhi's son Sandeep have been arrested by the police and brought under investigation. Arrest warrants have been issued against Top Bahadur Rayamajhi, Prateek Thapa and Niraj Rai to be brought under police investigation.

An arrest warrant was issued against the former deputy prime minister and UML Secretary Rayamajhi by the Kathmandu District Court on Wednesday. When the arrest warrant was issued, Secretary Rayamajhi was in Arghakhanchi with Speaker of the House of Representatives Devraj Ghimire. He was scheduled to come to Kathmandu by a plane from Bhairahawa along with Speaker Ghimire on Wednesday evening. But he did not come by air, fearing arrest.

Sources said that Rayamajhi came into contact with the police in Bhairahawa itself. Sources claim that he was traveling from Bhairahawa via the road to appear at the District Police Range, Kathmandu. District Police Range Kathmandu said that Rayamajhi had not been contacted until Thursday evening. "He has not come in contact yet," said Superintendent of Police Sitaram Rijal, spokesperson for the Range, "Our technical team is tracing."

Sources say that the party's top leaders have been mobilized to protect the political party's central-level leaders and high-ranking staff under police investigation for their alleged involvement in fraud gangs. The police officer assigned to the investigation says that some more "VIPs" may also be dragged into the investigation. District Police Range Kathmandu Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Dan Bahadur Karki said that 10 to 11 more people may be drawn for investigation in this case.

“It can be said that the investigation so far is preliminary. There may be a situation where 10-11 more people or even even more may be arrested," he said, "So far 8 people have been arrested."

According to sources, there is a possibility that the police may also take former Home Minister Thapa into custody for investigation. When Thapa was the home minister, the gang that sent Nepalis to America in the name of Bhutanese refugees worked in an organized manner. His son Prateek is also involved in the investigation. Sources say that as the investigation makes progress, there is a possibility that former Home Minister Thapa may also be dragged into the investigation.

Former Home Secretary Maheshwar Neupane is also under investigation by the police. There is a possibility that Prem Kumar Rai, chief commissioner of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority, may also be dragged into the police investigation. Rai was the Home Secretary when Thapa was the Home Minister. Similarly, Pandey, who was the home secretary when Nepali Congress leader Balkrishna Khand was the home minister, has also been arrested.

The top leadership of the political parties has also become agitated after the focus of the police investigation team and the administration on the VIPs. Leaders and employees who have taken over the leadership of the Ministry of Home Affairs have started panicking with the fear of being dragged into the investigation.

Chairman KP Sharma Oli met Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal on Thursday after an arrest warrant was issued against UML Secretary Top Bahadur Rayamajhi for his involvement in the gang that sent Nepalis to America in the name of Bhutanese refugees. Sources say that in the meeting with Prime Minister Dahal at the Prime Minister's Office in Singha Durbar, Oli expressed his anger by saying that ‘conspiracies were being hatched to frame UML leaders' in strong language. Sources said that Oli said that "the government should not go towards confrontation". Oli himself has also admitted that he had a conversation with the Prime Minister on this matter.

"I have drawn the prime minister's attention to this issue (investigation on Rayamajhi)," Oli said to reporters while leaving after the meeting.

Oli told reporters that the arrest of Rayamajhi was mysterious and conspiratorial. “Attempts were made to arrest a lawmaker, who has become a minister multiple times, a deputy PM …that is mysterious,” Oli said to media persons after the meeting.

Oli said that Rayamajhi, the secretary of the party, who is also a Deputy Prime Minister and MP, will not run away and go anywhere. He said, "I spoke to him (Rayamajhi) yesterday (Wednesday) evening. I heard you have an arrest warrant, do you have any information? He said that he has spoken to the IGP. He said it should be clarified once.”

Oli also said that he had heard about the attempts of sending Nepalis as fake Bhutanese refugees to America when he was the prime minister.

“Calling the Minister for Home Affairs and the officer of the Investigation Department, I discussed the issue of Bhutanese refugees and asked them to conduct a thorough investigation. Then we left the government. I don't know what happened after leaving the government," Oli said.

Similarly, Rai, the chief commissioner of the CIAA, who is also a former home secretary, is also likely to be dragged into the police investigation. Sources say that Rai met President Ramchandra Paudel and Vice President Ramsahay Yadav and discussed the matter.

To solve the problem of Bhutanese refugees who stayed in Nepal without going to a third country for resettlement, on 14th July 2019, the then KP Sharma Oli-led government formed a task force under the coordination of Balkrishna Panthi, joint secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The task force produced a report but it was not made public. But the gang involved in the fraud got hold of that report and added a sub-list to it and put fake names as refugees who wanted to go to third countries. It is said that there are 875 Nepalis from districts including Jhapa, Morang, Sunsari, Gorkha, Kaski, Baglung, Arghakhanchi and Dang. According to the police investigation, the gang charged between 1 million to 5 million rupees per person for sending Nepalis as fake Bhutanese refugees to America.

Initially, 81 people filed a complaint at the Kathmandu Valley Crime Investigation Office for taking the money and not sending them to America. After the same complaint, the police investigation is going on for 40 days. Based on the initial complaint, the police arrested Keshav Dulal, who is said to be the leader of the gang, Sanu Bhandari of Lalitpur and Tanka Gurung of Panchthar on March 26. Based on the statement of those three people, the police are conducting further investigation.


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