#Fake Bhutanese refugee scam

Police investigation report prepared

Published On: May 21, 2023 07:30 PM NPT By: Tapendra Karki

KATHMANDU, May 21: The police have prepared a report after investigating high-profile individuals in the fake Bhutanese refugee scam. The police report includes statements of the victims as well as middlemen arrested by the police and some bounced cheques and SMS as evidence. The police report also made a startling revelation that a report prepared by a task force led by Bal Krishna Panthi was fake. The police were supposed to submit the report to the  District Government Attorney Office on Sunday.

According to the officers involved in the investigation, the report is based on the statements given by the victims and the gang members and also includes bounced cheques, SMS records recovered using mobile software and the report prepared by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

"Only 40 to 45 screenshots of SMS of  the Secretary of the Office of Vice President Tek Narayan Pandey have been kept in the report while there are screenshots of other middlemen, gangs and victims," said the source.

Statements of the arrested middlemen, some SMS, photocopies of some uncashed cheques and bank statements, complaints, vehicles used, places and dates of meetings through middlemen at different times have also been kept as evidence. An investigation report has been prepared on the basis of some notes recovered from the middlemen and documents given by the victims.

"The main evidence is the copy of the fake report prepared by the Bal Krishna Panthi-led task force, in which Panthi himself is the witness," said an investigating officer. According to an investigation officer, the report contains issues such as Secretary Pandey asking for money, saying that he would not be able to work without money, and having to give the money to the minister. "All these will be used as evidence," the source said. According to sources, Secretary Pandey asked for the report prepared by Panthi with the then Joint-Secretary of Peace, Security and Crime Control Section of the Ministry of Home Affairs Phanindra Mani Pokharel and it was returned in about a week. The statement of the Joint Secretary Pokharel has also been recorded as a statement of a witness.

"He was requested for the report many times. Secretary Pandey and Joint Secretary Pokharel had a fight while recording the statement," the source said. 

Police investigation has revealed that Secretary Pandey together with the gang members asked for the report of the Panthi-led Task Force with Joint Secretary Pokharel. 

“When Secretary Pandey asked for the report, Joint Secretary Pokharel clearly said that he could not give the report. There was a fight within the police office on the same issue,'' claims the police officer assigned for the investigation. After the statement of Joint Secretary Pokharel was recorded, the statement of the then Under Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs Sagar Mani Pathak was also taken. At the same time, the statement of Antosh Pradhan, section officer of the ministry, was also taken. Police have also kept Joint Secretary Pokharel as a witness.

According to the police, they have ruthlessly prepared an investigation report on those who formed a task force in collusion with the gang and took it to the level of implementation. The police have collected enough evidence on former Deputy Prime Minister Top Bahadur Rayamajhi, his son Sandeep Rayamajhi, the then Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa's security adviser Indrajit Rai, Secretary Tek Narayan Pandey, gang leader Sanu Bhandari and Keshav Dulal. 

"In this case, there is the involvement of high-profile individuals, there is no doubt about it, the task force itself has prepared a fake report, the case is strengthened with government’s seals and signatures, there is also considerable evidence of fraud, and there is strong evidence in the case of treason for turning Nepali citizens into Bhutanese," the source said.

Top Bahadur Rayamajhi and Ram Bahadur Thapa's security advisor Indrajit Rai were found to have had access to policy decisions. The police are unlikely to be flexible in this case. Although it appears that Bhutanese refugee leader Tek Nath Rizal had supported the task of forming the  task force and bringing it to the implementation level, nothing has been revealed about whether he did it on purpose or unknowingly.

Similarly, in the case of former Home Secretary Pandey, there is an SMS asking for money, while in the case of former Home Minister Bal Krishna Khand, there is a letter to Jhapa district and the decision to implement the report of the task force headed by Bal Krishna Panthi on January 14, 2022. The investigation officers say that other evidence of fraud is insufficient.

After not finding sufficient evidence, a supplementary application has been made to the police office to re-investigate the case. Accordingly, even if the police submits the case within the 60-day limit, there will still be a way to re-investigate the case of high-profile leaders. The police claim that other people and parties that are not yet included in the case can be nabbed and included. In their report, the police recommend prosecuting the accused in crimes such as fraud, embezzlement, organized crime and ‘doing actions adverse to the national interest’, corruption etc.

In Section 51 of the National Civil Code 2017, it is mentioned that one should not act against the national interest. The police are preparing to recommend prosecution for the offense of "insulting, inciting or inciting hatred or malice to Nepal's independence, sovereignty, geographical or territorial integrity, nationality, independence, self-respect or international image of Nepal" mentioned in sub-section 2 (a) of the same section.

Those who commit the offense are liable to imprisonment for up to five years and a fine of up to Rs 50,000. A task force was formed on July 14, 2019 by the ministerial-level decision of Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa to permanently solve the problem of refugees. A list of fake refugees was compiled by a politically protected gang while the task force was working under the coordination of the then joint secretary of home ministry Bal Krishna Panthi. But the task force did not include the details they collected in that list.

The report of the task force has not yet been made public. But the gang, who got the report from the government level, bought the report and collected money by adding a sub-list under the headings of 'missing refugees' and 'seeking asylum in third countries'. Based on this, the gang collected Rs 10,00,000 to Rs 50, 00,000 per person from 875 people in districts including Jhapa, Morang, Sunsari, Gorkha, Kaski, Baglung, Arghakhanchi and Dang. The National Criminal Procedure 2017 has empowered the police to research and investigate crimes of a criminal nature.

The police have to submit a report with opinion to the District Attorney's Office containing the facts found during the investigation. According to section 31 of the National Criminal Procedure, after completion of the investigation, the investigation officer (police) should send an investigation report with evidence to the relevant District Attorney’s Office to find out which law should be invoked according to the sufficient evidence to prosecute those suspected of committing a crime.

Based on the report and opinion of the police, the District Attorney's Office will prosecute the accused persons and file a case in the district court based on the offenses. "We will send the investigation report as soon as possible," said Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Dan Bahadur Karki of District Police Range, Kathmandu. So far, the police have arrested 16 people and the same numbers are absconding. With these numbers police are about to submit an investigation report.

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