The arrest of a gang of conmen in the capital who swindled Nepalis by promising to send them to the USA in the guise of Bhutanese refugees has led to the arrest of other high-profile people, including a government secretary and a security advisor to a former home minister. Among those arrested is Tek Narayan Pandey, the secretary at the Office of the Vice President. He is accused of colluding with a gang that facilitated the documentation of Nepalis as Bhutanese refugees. Indrajit Rai, a security adviser to former home minister Ram Bahadur Thapa, has also been arrested for his alleged connections with the gang of conmen. Similarly, arrest warrants have been issued against former energy minister and CPN-UML Secretary Top Bahadur Rayamajhi and his son Sandeep Rayamajhi. The senior Rayamajhi has reportedly admitted that he helped the group and is also facing charges of fraud. Likewise, an arrest warrant has also been issued against former home minister Thapa’s son Prateek Thapa.
It is appalling that so-called high-profile people, including government secretaries and powerful politicians and former ministers, are allegedly involved in a criminal scheme that swindled millions of rupees from scores of Nepalis. The recent arrests are steps in the right direction, but it is unacceptable that some individuals are still at large. It is essential that they too are arrested at the earliest and that a fair investigation is conducted. A thorough investigation should be conducted, and no one should be spared. The group has allegedly been scamming people for the past five years by promising to fly them to the United States as Bhutanese refugees. The victims had filed a case against the group at the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority at the end of 2021. However, the case was brought to the Kathmandu Valley Crime Division only in June 2022. The group has allegedly swindled millions of rupees from over 1,000 people from different places in Nepal.
The arrest/possible arrest of these con men who duped people into believing they could be sent to the USA as Bhutanese refugees have shed light on a much larger issue. The fact that high-profile politicians and government officials are allegedly involved in this fraud is alarming and demands swift action. While the police seem to have made progress in the investigation, it is unacceptable that the high-profile politicians and their kin involved in the case were not arrested until late Wednesday evening. It is time for the authorities to take swift action against all those involved in this scam.
These arrests show that Nepal has a long way to go in fighting corruption and bringing corrupt officials to justice. It is not enough to arrest low-level criminals; those in positions of power who have abused their positions for personal gain must also be held accountable. These individuals are entrusted with the responsibility of running the country and serving the people, and they must be held to a higher standard of integrity.
It is encouraging that the police seem to be preparing to file a case of fraud against the high-profile people involved in the case. However, that is not enough. They should also be booked for human trafficking as well. There should be no difficulty in establishing these crimes with prompt and thorough investigation. No one should be spared, regardless of their position of power or influence. It is also worth noting that the victims of this scam are the ones who have suffered the most. These people have been promised a better life in the USA, but instead, they have lost their hard-earned money and have been left in a state of despair.
The whole incident highlights the need for stronger measures to prevent corruption and hold corrupt officials accountable. The authorities must take steps to strengthen the justice system, including ensuring that the police have the resources and training they need to carry out investigations and that the judiciary has the independence it needs to deliver justice. It is also important to raise public awareness of corruption and to encourage people to come forward and report such cases.
On the one hand, the fact that politicians are facing criminal charges suggests that politics has become criminalized to a large extent. This has clearly undermined the public's faith in the current political system as a whole. On the other hand, the fact that criminal charges have been brought against politicians also suggests that crime is being politicized. Overall, it is difficult to say whether this situation is more an example of criminalization of politics or politicization of crime, as both dynamics appear to be at play to some extent. What is clear, however, is that this type of situation is not good for democracy and highlights the need for strong institutions and an independent judiciary to uphold the rule of law.