fake rescuekkers

Taskforce finds organized crime in heli rescue scam

Published On: July 31, 2018 04:15 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

Refuses to name guilty trekking companies, hospitals, helicopter operators

KATHMANDU, July 31: A taskforce formed to launch an investigation into fake rescue operations conducted by trekking companies in collusion with private hospitals and helicopter operators have recommended action against eight trekking companies, four hospital and three helicopter companies.

However, the ministry has not unveiled name of the 'wrongdoing' companies, raising suspicion that the government was trying to protect them.

The taskforce has recommended slew of immediate and long-term measures to end ill practices in adventure tourism sector of the country, and charge the 'wrong doing' companies for fraud and organized crime.

"We had received complaints against 10 helicopter companies, six hospitals and 36 travel/trekking/rescue companies. After carrying out in-depth study, we found that eight trekking companies, four hospitals and three chopper companies were involved in fake rescue of trekkers, causing insurance companies huge loss," an excerpt of the 700-page investigation report submitted by the taskforce reads.

Ghanashyam Upadhyaya, coordinator of the taskforce, handed over the report to Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Rabindra Adhikari on Monday.

Among others, the ministry has suggested that the task of carrying out rescue operations be handed over to the Ministry of Home Affairs. Similarly, the report states that name of five companies, which were found doing foreign currency transactions without taking approval of the Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB), will be forwarded to the central bank for further investigation.

The report has not disclosed identity of these companies.

"We are not disclosing names because it is a preliminary study report. Concerned government agencies will launch investigation against these companies," Upadhyaya, who is also the spokesperson for the tourism ministry, said.

According to Upadhyaya, the report will be forwarded to Ministry of Health and Population for launching investigation against hospitals, to NRB for probing foreign currency misappropriation, and to Inland Revenue Department for investigating tax evasion, among others. "The ministry will take action against these companies on the basis of investigation conducted by these government agencies," he added.

Similarly, the committee has suggested that the tourism ministry formulate Mountaineering & Trekking Search and Rescue Working Procedure within 15 days so that it can be implemented from the coming autumn season. "Needful arrangements should be made, requiring helicopter companies to submit details of rescue flights conducted by them to Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) within 15 days of the end of the tourist season," reads the report. Hospitals will also have to submit similar report to the Department of Tourism (DoT), it added.

Meanwhile, the committee has suggested that the ministry levy an additional US$ 10 on Trekkers' Information Management System (TIMS) fee to mobilize resources for Rescue Fund which will be used to conduct rescue operation. It will later claim the expenses incurred during such operations from insurance companies.

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