False details emerge in report of High-level Probe Commission on Gold Smuggling, real smugglers remain unidentified

Published On: April 14, 2024 12:00 PM NPT By: Tapendra Karki

KATHMANDU, April 14: The report submitted to the government by the High-level Probe Commission on gold smuggling in the country has stirred confusion as the facts and details in its report have been found to be false. The information provided in the report, presented a month ago by the Commission, has been discovered to be inaccurate.

It has been revealed that the allegations against police officers working at the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) of Nepal Police, concerning their alleged links with individuals involved in gold smuggling, were based on erroneous information.

The government formed a commission under the leadership of former high court judge Dilli Raj Acharya on October 1, 2023 to investigate the issue of illegal gold smuggling from the Tribhuvan International Airport.

The members of the commission were former joint secretaries Kishor Jung Karki and Premraj Joshi and former Additional Inspector General (AIG) of Police Sahakul Thapa. On July 19, last year, the Department of Revenue Investigation (DRI) seized 60.716 kg of gold hidden in 'brake shoes' of motorbikes that had been cleared by the Tribhuvan International Airport customs office. 

Similarly, a commission was formed to further investigate the gold found concealed in electronic cigarettes (Vape) on December 25, 2022.

The gold case was initially investigated by the Department of Revenue Investigation and later by the CIB under the direction of the government. Following the CIB's filing of a case in court against the individuals implicated in gold smuggling, the commission commenced its own investigation, which spanned about six months.

The government initiated departmental action against AIG Kiran Bajracharya, SP Sanjay Thapa, DSP Rugam Kunwar, and Durga Dahal, all of whom were mentioned in the same report. However, it has been confirmed that the subject for which the commission recommended action against the police officials is false.

DSP Rugam Kunwar, against whom action was taken, stated that he was not involved in the investigation of gold smuggling, was unaware of it, and had no contact with individuals with malicious intentions.

However, following recommendations of action based on alleged contacts with businessman Jeewan Chalaune, who is suspected to be involved in gold smuggling about 2,410 times, Kunwar himself submitted his call details to the Ministry of Home Affairs.

"The commission had recommended departmental action against DSP Kunwar for allegedly making 2,410 phone calls to Jeewan Chalaune, accused of gold smuggling, from December 2022 to August 2023," the ministry source said. "However, during the statement, DSP Kunwar mentioned in the application that he had only 53 phone calls during that period. A document containing the same details has been submitted," the source added.

DSP Kunwar has challenged the commission to confirm the fact that he had only 53 phone calls in nine months. He obtained the phone call details from Nepal Telecom and submitted it to the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Furthermore, Kunwar was not included in the 42-member police team deployed to investigate the gold smuggling. Despite this, the commission recommended action against him indiscriminately.

Reports from various commissions confirm that Nepali citizens and Nepali routes are being exploited for gold smuggling. While some recommendations from these reports have been implemented, confusion has arisen due to the lack of public disclosure of the full reports.

The current report has indeed affirmed the problem of gold smuggling, yet it has failed to pinpoint the real culprits. It appears that other reports have been consulted and drafted, as some issues seem to overlap with previously mentioned facts. "The issue of trafficking is undoubtedly a reality, but there are ambiguities regarding the identity of the trafficker and their political affiliations," said the source.

After the commission submitted its report, Home Minister Rabi Lamichhane urged for action, highlighting flaws in the CIB's investigation. He decided to initiate the report's implementation through the Council of Ministers. However, both the Home Minister and the Prime Minister have now remained silent on the matter after discovering significant factual inaccuracies.

Earlier, a high-level committee was formed under the coordination of Ishwar Paudel, joint secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs, to investigate the gold smuggling operations orchestrated by international mafia networks. The committee also uncovered evidence suggesting the existence of a political nexus involved in gold smuggling.

In the recent CIB investigation, initial suggestions hinted at the involvement of political figures. However, urgent measures were recommended to dismantle any such connections.

Upon raising factual inquiries regarding the 485-page report, confusion arose regarding the implementation of the recommendations provided by the High-level probe commission. Initially, the Department of Revenue Investigation granted immunity to Amala Roka, who was associated with Dawa Tsering, a Belgian national of Chinese origin, a prime suspect in gold smuggling. The revenue authorities conducted a raid on a hotel alleging that Dawa had opened Hotel Vienna in Thamel under Amala's name. However, this crucial information seems to have been omitted from the commission's report.

Former Speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara, who was reportedly arrested based on the Commission's report, was released citing health complications. Meanwhile, the CIB kept Daojin Wang under surveillance, suggesting that his involvement would be disclosed only after his arrest and whether Mahara and Wang share a longstanding relationship or not.

Similarly, Dipesh Pun, the youngest son of former Vice President Nanda Bahadur Pun, has been arrested in connection with the gold case and is also under investigation for cooperative fraud. Additionally, Home Minister Lamichhane and his wife Nikita Paudel, along with Labor Minister DP Aryal and other leaders, have become embroiled in controversies related to cooperative fraud.

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