Gold smuggling continues despite high vigilance on the northern border

Published On: October 1, 2023 12:30 PM NPT By: Tapendra Karki

KATHMANDU, Oct 1: Since the closure of the Tatopani crossing in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquake, smugglers have adapted and continued their illegal activities, with the Kerung crossing emerging as the new route for gold smuggling into Nepal.

As gold began to flow in through the Kerung Pass, authorities tightened the security in that area. After that, gold was smuggled through the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA). Following heightened security at the airport, smugglers reverted to utilizing the Tatopani crossing, and with its closure, gold has been smuggled from the Kerung crossing again.

On December 25, 2022, Daojin Wang, a Chinese national smuggled gold concealed in electronic cigarettes (Vape), and his accomplices fled to China. According to the police, they are continuing to smuggle gold through new alternative routes. Police sources claim that Wang is still in China and is smuggling gold to Nepal through various means.

After the seizure of around 61 kg of gold from outside the TIA on July 18, 2023, the government started to tighten security. The involvement of Wang and others was found in the smuggling of 61 kg of gold.

While investigating the gold seized outside the airport, authorities concluded that the same group had also played a part in smuggling 2 kg of gold via the Kerung crossing. District Police Office, Rasuwa recovered two kilos of gold hidden inside the chest guard during a regular inspection. During the regular inspection, gold was recovered from Sudeep Sherpa, 24, who was going to Syafrubesi from Timure. He said that one Fursangbu Sherpa of Timure had given him the gold and that he was going to bring it to Kathmandu.

It can be inferred from these developments that smugglers are using the Kerung crossing for gold smuggling while the government's attention is on the airport. Gold was recovered from Kerung while the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) of Nepal Police was intensifying inspections at all the checkpoints.

After Tatopani and Kerung, gold smugglers have now begun to consider the Lamabagar crossing in Dolakha. After the police seized four kilos of gold from Singati Bazar in Bigu Rural Municipality of Dolakha on Wednesday night, it can be assumed that the smugglers are on the lookout for new routes. The recovered gold was brought through the northern border crossing of Lamabagar. The crossing was opened only three days ago during Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal's visit to China. According to Thursday's market price, the recovered gold is worth Rs 37.77 million.

The said gold was brought to Nepal by Pemba Tamang, 18, of Bigu Rural Municipality-1. On Sunday, China opened the Rongjia and Koldum border crossings to Nepal for a week. However, the police claim that gold is being smuggled through these channels.

According to the police, a Chinese national had given the gold to Pemba Tamang to transport it to Kathmandu. Pemba Tamang assigned the task to Keshar Tamang, 28, of Bigu Rural Municipality-1 to conceal the gold. Keshar Tamang took the gold to his rented room in Jamune, Bigu Rural Municipality-3. At the same time, the police recovered four gold biscuits from the rented room of Keshar Tamang in Singati. Police said that a Chinese national was also involved in the incident and they are looking for him. Police arrested Pemba Tamang, 18, Madhav Magar, 20, Nurbu Chhiring Sherpa, 55, and Sunmala Tamang, 30, of Lamabagar and Keshar Tamang for their alleged involvement in gold smuggling.

Pemba and Madhav, in their statements to the police, have admitted to bringing the gold from the Nepal-China border at Rongjia and have indicated that Nurbu Chhiring and Sunmala were instructed to deliver the gold to Kathmandu.

District Police Office, Dolakha, recovered the gold with the help of the Kathmandu Valley Crime Division. "The recovered gold does not belong to the arrested people; they are just porters and middlemen who came to get some gold. The names of some Chinese and local people have also surfaced. We are investigating," said DSP Deepak Khadka of the District Police Office, Dolakha.

In response to the gold smugglers’ use of the northern border, police have heightened vigilance. There are nine BOPs of the Armed Police Force along the Nepal-China border. Vigilance has been started with the help of armed police at nine places where Border Observation Posts (BOPs) are located. Vigilance and monitoring have been intensified with the support of armed police at these BOPs, which are located in Tinkar, Darchula; Hilsa, Humla; Nechung, Mustang (near the Korala border point); Rasuwagadhi/Kerung, Rasuwa; Tatopani and Gumba, Sindhupalchok; Lamabagar, Dolakha; Kimathanka, Sankhuwasabha; and Olangchung Gola, Taplejung.

Notably, smuggling activities may not occur at all these locations. However, whenever the Chinese government temporarily opens the border for the locals, smugglers seize the opportunity to transport gold, as observed in Lamabagar, according to a senior Nepal Police official. Smuggled gold was recovered from Gorkha as well when the border was opened for the locals, added the official.

"When the snow melts, the Chinese employ local citizens for smuggling. In such a situation, we are monitoring the border with the help of the armed police," said a senior official of Nepal Police.

A Filipino woman was arrested at the International Airport on Friday evening with about three kilos of gold, while the attention of the police was diverted for a few days. She arrived in Kathmandu via Dubai and was arrested on Friday evening with the gold. After three kilos of gold was recovered from her, the police handed over the case to the Department of Revenue Investigation for further investigation.


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