Expired food relabeling scam

Main accused ordered to deposit Rs 10 million, serve a jail term of one year

Published On: October 10, 2020 09:00 PM NPT By: RAJESH KHANAL

The value of expired food items seized in Kalanki and Bafal in the capital last week estimated at Rs 29.36 million

KATHMANDU, Oct 10: The Department of Commerce, Supplies and Consumer Protection on Friday ordered the proprietor of Ian Distributor Pvt Ltd, the company involved in relabelling of various expired food items and supplying them to the market, to deposit an amount of Rs 10 million. Similarly, the market regulator slapped a one-year jail term on an Indian national involved in the scam. 

Department officials said that they came up with the decision after registering the statements of each of the eight people who are found guilty in the scam. Last week, police raided houses in Kalanki and Bafal of Kathmandu where the expired packaged food items were being relabeled to supply them to the local market. 

Netra Prasad Subedi, director general of the department, told Republica that they have received written clarifications from all of the defendants. “As we found them guilty, we issued the verdict based on the legal provisions defined by Subsection 10 of Section 40 of the Consumer Protection Act 2018,” said Subedi. 

The department has ordered Pushpa Devi Agrawal, the proprietor of Ian Distributors Pvt Ltd, to deposit an amount of Rs 10 million at the department. Similarly, the department ordered a one-year jail term for Ronak Bothra, an Indian national who works as the manager of the company. Bothra is the mastermind behind the scam, according to the department. 

Director General Subedi said he took the decision based on the new Consumer Protection Act which has delegated full authority to the department’s chief to impose bail amount and jail term of up to one year against the offenders of such cases. “While the market monitoring officers can slap a small amount of on-the-spot cash fine, the department’s chief has been empowered to take further action,” he said.   

Ian Distributors is said to have close nexus with Vishal Group, one of the established business conglomerates of Nepal that is authorized to import various packaged foods. However, Vishal Group has been denying any sort of connection with the distributor company. “The department has been carrying out further investigation to gather adequate evidence in the scam,” Subedi said. 

Likewise, the department has sought a cash deposit of Rs 500,000 from each of the five workers arrested in connection with the scam - Munna Thakur, Pappu Kumar Thakur, Bikram Kumar Gupta, Shyam Prasad Singh and Ram Bahadur Bayalkoti. Subedi said the department has asked the police to issue an arrest warrant against Shankar Bayalkoti who has been absconding since the scam surfaced. 

A joint team mobilized from the department, the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) of Nepal Police and Metropolitan Crime Branch raided the three-story house of Babukrishna Sapkota at Kalanki Link Road, Kathmandu. Indian citizen Bothra who rented the house has been found using it as a warehouse under the name of Ian Distributors Pvt Ltd for storing expired consumer goods. From the house, the team also confiscated machines and chemicals used in the relabeling of the expired consumer goods. 

The team also sealed the house of Prachandaman Shrestha in Bafal which was being used by Bothra as his residence and the office of Ian Distributors.

In the two raids, 5,700 cartons of expired Tang Powder Juice, 591 cartons of expired Sneaker Chocolate, 700 cartons of expired Pringles Potato Chips, 79 cartons of expired Oreo Biscuits and five cartons of expired Bournvita and Horlicks were recovered from the warehouse of Ian Distributors. According to the department, the market value of the seized food items is estimated at Rs 29.36 million. 

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