#Fake Bhutanese refugee scam

Rayamajhi, Khand and Pandey may be investigated for 60 more days

Published On: May 23, 2023 09:15 PM NPT By: Tapendra Karki

KATHMANDU, May 23: The police have submitted an investigation report to the District Government Attorney’s Office, alleging that former deputy prime minister Top Bahadur Rayamajhi, former home minister Bal Krishna Khand, secretary Tek Narayan Pandey (the then home secretary) were involved in the case of swindling money from Nepali citizens promising to send them to the US as fake Bhutanese refugees.

The police have submitted an investigation report to the District Government Attorney’s Office recommending  action against 33 people, including 16 people who were arrested and 17 people who are still absconding. But the police have also kept open the door to re-investigate all those arrested and those who are absconding and under suspicion. The police have sent an investigation report to the public prosecutor's office with the right to investigate for an additional 60 days after receiving a supplementary application from the victims.

Achyut Mani Neupane, chief of the District Government Attorney’s Office, said that the police could take a supplementary application and remand them for 60 days in custody and conduct further investigation. "In the case of re-investigation, the police will investigate by detaining them as done before," said chief Neupane. The police are taking supplementary applications from the victims. 

SSP Dan Bahadur Karki, chief of the District Police Range, Kathmandu claimed that the investigation of more people will continue even though they have submitted the investigation report with the evidence found so far in the case of the fake refugees.

The police sent the report to the District Government Attorney’s Office with the opinion that a case should be filed against 33 people. The names of 30 people have been included in the report, while the names of the other three have not been disclosed. "In the current situation, we have conducted an investigation based on the available evidence. If the facts and evidence are found, the investigation will be conducted again," said SSP Karki. 

"In the absence of concrete evidence now, we have worked so that the case will be filed later," said SSP Karki. SSP Karki said that based on the claim of the complainants, the report has suggested the government to recover Rs 270 million from the accused. 

After investigating the case, the District Police Range, Kathmandu, has recommended the accused to be  charged under organized crime, fraud, and sedition. The crime of mishandling the report of the task force formed to find permanent and long-term solutions to the Bhutanese refugee problem did not feature as the main charge. 

The report further suggests that further investigations into money laundering and corruption needs to be undertaken by the concerned agencies.

"After completing all the investigations on behalf of the police, the report has been submitted to the attorney," said Karki, the head of the police range. The police conducted an investigation into organized crime for about 60 days and prepared an investigation report. In the report, former Deputy Prime Minister Rayamajhi, former Home Minister Khand and Nepal Government’s Secretary Pandey (former Home Secretary) have been identified as decision makers.

“They have made a policy decision. They have had the biggest impact. It seems to be under the influence of the middleman,” said the police officer involved in the investigation. The police said that Sanu Bhandari and Keshav Dulal were acting as middlemen.

It is mentioned in the report that former Home Ministrr Ram Bahadur Thapa’s security adviser Indrajit Rai, and his son Pratik Thapa and former Deputy Prime Minister Rayamajhi's son Sandeep Rayamajhi, who were in the secretariat of former Deputy Prime Minister and then Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa, protected the middlemen. 

The police have arrested Keshav Dulal and Sanu Bhandari as the main planners and for extorting money from those who tried to go to the US as refugees. It is mentioned that Sagar Thulung Rai, Tanka Gurung, Govinda Kumar Chaudhary, Gajendra Budhathoki and Sandesh Sharma worked as agents. The police mentioned that they extorted between Rs 1 million and Rs 5 million from 113 people. According to the police investigation report, more than Rs 275 million should be recovered from the accused.

According to the police, fraud, organized crime, crime against the state, fraud and destruction of evidence have been mentioned with priority in the report. However, the police report about the theft and destruction of government evidence is not clear, according to the sources of the District Government Attorney’s Office. It has also recommended that some individuals be sent to the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) and the Department of Money Laundering Investigation for further investigation. 

"We have conducted an investigation, for further investigation we have mentioned that correspondence should be sent to CIAA and the Department of  Money Laundering Investigation," said SSP Karki, head of District Police Range, Kathmandu . The police have also retained a government witness. In order to find a permanent solution to the problem of Bhutanese refugees, the Ministry of Home Affairs formed a working group under the leadership of Joint Secretary Bal Krishna Panthi in May 2019. The members of that task force have been kept as witnesses.

Panthi, the coordinator of the task force, Ganesh KC, the member of the task force, and Phanindra Mani Pokharel, the then joint secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs, have also been recommended as government witnesses. The Government Attorney’s Office formed a group of eight people under the leadership of Achyut Mani Neupane to study the report and submit the case to the court by Wednesday. "We will work throughout the night and study the police report," said Attorney Neupane. He also said that he cannot say anything without studying the entire report.

List of accused who are absconding 

The police said that some people are absconding. Former Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa’s son Pratik Thapa, Neeraj Rai, Bechan Jha, Keshav Tuladhar, Ashok Pokharel, Laxmi Maharjan, Dhiren Rai, Mohan Rai, Deepa Humagain, Sunil Budhathoki, Binita Limbu, Niranjan Kharel, Rajesh Aryal, Hari Bhakta are involved in the gang. Maharjan, Ashish Budhathoki and Rama Thapa have been listed as fugitives. Apart from them, an unidentified person has also been listed as a fugitive. There are two persons whose names have been disclosed but whose addresses have not been disclosed. Ashok Pokharel has been identified by the police as a Nepali living in America.


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