Fake Bhutanese Refugee Scam

Police intensely investigating ex-home minister Khand’s involvement

Published On: May 11, 2023 04:30 PM NPT By: Tapendra Karki

KATHMANDU, May 11: After arresting former home minister Bal Krishna Khand in connection with the fake Bhutanese refugee scam, the police have intensified their investigation “to find other links”. Sources said that the police investigation is focused on finding out whether there was a financial transaction involving Khand with the gang of con men who took Nepali citizens as Bhutanese refugees to America.  

"With the audio tape released, the police will surely investigate its authenticity. But the police are currently investigating possible financial transactions between Bal Krishna Khand and Arzu Rana, the wife of Nepali Congress President and former prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba that can be linked to the case. As both their names have a mention in the audio tape, both of them are likely to come under the scope of investigation,” said a police source.

Meanwhile, Arzu Rana has claimed that she has been unnecessarily dragged into the matter. She claims that she was accused while she was undergoing treatment in Japan for an illness. On Wednesday, she also filed a complaint with the cyber bureau of Nepal Police demanding an investigation into the audio tape. The police will investigate all these aspects. After the gang members who were arrested by the police named UML Secretary Top Bahadur Rayamajhi, former Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa's security advisor Indrajit Rai, then Home Secretary Tek Narayan Pandey, former Home Minister Bal Krishna Khand, his wife Manju Khand and Arju Rana in their statements, the police arrested former Home Minister Khand on Wednesday saying that they should be brought under investigation.

"We have heard Arzu Rana claiming herself innocent, but the police should know why the arrestees have taken her name in this case," said a police officer involved in the investigation. Home Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha has ordered the police to arrest all of them and investigate the gangs involved in sending Nepalis as Bhutanese refugees to America. He has instructed the police administration not to come under any kind of pressure. The police have also brought the former deputy prime minister to the home minister under investigation.  

The police are also conducting a detailed investigation into former Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa's connection with gang members. Similarly, former home secretary Maheshwar Neupane, political advisor Surya Subedi Pathik appointed by former home minister Thapa have also been kept under surveillance by the police. According to the police, so far no connection has been found to arrest them. When Thapa was Home Minister, a task force was formed to find permanent and long-term solutions to the Bhutanese refugee problem. Prem Kumar Rai was the home secretary when the task force was formed.  

He formed a working group under the leadership of former joint secretary Balkrishna Panthi under the direction of the Home Minister. The police have not yet said anything about the involvement of the then Home Minister Thapa and the Secretary. The police claim that when Balkrishna Khand was the Minister, the leaders who were close to him were also involved in this case. But the police did not say anything about who was involved. The report submitted to the then Home Secretary Prem Rai (currently the head of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority) that the ministry has at present has been amended to suit his interests. 

As the original report was found at the Prime Minister's Office, it has become easier for the police to investigate. 

Khand-gang connection

Teknarayan Pandey himself sent out the report prepared by the task force formed to find a long-term solution to the Bhutanese refugee problem. Pandey was transferred to the ministry by then home minister Khand himself within a few days of his becoming a minister. While Secretary Pandey was saying that he had done all the work under the instructions of the Minister, he himself had given the report to Keshav Dulal, the gang leader. Dulal was working in Sujata Koirala's secretariat when she was a deputy prime minister. He is said to be on good terms with the Koirala family. That report was handed over by Dulal's team.

Now the ministry does not have the original copy. In order to find a long-term solution to the Bhutanese refugee problem, the Ministry of Home Affairs formed a three-member task force under the leadership of Panthi on June 13, 2019. The task group submitted its report to the then home secretary Prem Kumar Rai in November. The report which was received by the then home secretary Rai was handed over to the gang by his successor, then home secretary Pandey. "The ministry does not have a report that was received at that time, and there is no information about who took it to where," said a joint secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs.  

According to ministry sources, 875 people submitted a petition to the Panthi-led task force saying that they were missing from the refugee count. But the task force refused to include their names citing lack of evidence. The task force included in Schedule 7 the names of 429 persons identified by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) and the Refugee Coordination Unit (RCU) in the District Administration Office, Jhapa. The police claim that the same schedule has been changed.

The police took the statement of Secretary Pandey, who was arrested, after the report taken from the Ministry of Home Affairs and the statements given by the coordinators and members of the task force were conflicting. In the statement, Pandey said that this work was done under the direction of Home Minister Khand. Khand was the home minister and Pandey the secretary when it was decided to implement that report. The Council of Ministers decided to implement the recommendations of the report on January 14, 2022. Before that, the report was sent to the Social Committee for study. The report sent to the Social Committee in February 2021 reached the Cabinet during the time of Home Minister Khand.

According to sources, Khand also got a decision approved by the Cabinet saying that the report should be implemented soon. After that decision, the gang that converted Nepali citizens into Bhutanese refugees to send them to America became more active. According to police sources, the report in the Social Affairs Committee and the report given by Panthi during the statement were the same. "At that time, a copy was sent to the social affairs committee, when we showed the report to the coordinator of the task group, he said it was not the same the report they had and the report from the committee was however, the same," said a police officer from the District Police Range, Kathmandu. According to that official, the report that was said to be at the home ministry was prepared and submitted by the gang. Police sources said that the then home secretary Teknarayan Pandey along with the gang members Sanu Bhandari of Lalitpur, Sandesh Sharma and Keshav Dulal of Morang kept their report at the home ministry for financial gain and may have given the original report to them.

According to police sources, when Khand was the Home Minister, another committee was formed under the coordination of Under Secretary Chomendra Neupane to reconsider the report of the task group led by former joint secretary Panthi on June 10, 2022. The home ministry had also sent a letter to the District Administration Office, Jhapa. At that time Neupane was Jhapa's assistant CDO. After the matter came out, the police were forced to investigate Khand. Secretary Pandey, who was asked by Khand to take care of him, said in the statement that the police investigation has started on the suspicion that he received the amount through his personal secretary Narendra KC. One of the members of the gang, Sanu Bhandari, has given a statement that he paid 12.5 million rupees only through Pandey. The audio of Manju, Khand's wife, also receiving the amount has been released.

12 arrested so far

The police have arrested 12 people on the charge of defrauding Nepali citizens of millions of rupees by making them fake Bhutanese refugees. On April 25, Keshav Dulal of Morang, Sanu Bhandari of Lalitpur and Tek Gurung of Panchthar were arrested on charges of extortion by saying that they would make Nepalis Bhutanese refugees and send them to America. After that, the police arrested Sagar Rai of Morang, Indrajit Rai, security advisor of the then Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa. Teknarayan Pandey, former secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs and secretary of the Vice President's Office, was arrested on May 4. In this case, CPN-UML Secretary and former Deputy Prime Minister Top Bahadur Rayamajhi is absconding. Indrajit's son Niraj is also absconding. Rayamajhi's son Sandeep has been arrested. On Tuesday, the police arrested two more people, Ramsharan KC and Govinda Chaudhary, for their involvement in this case.


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