Victims of foreign employment scammers held hostage for months

Published On: June 8, 2023 08:15 PM NPT By: Sabita Khadka

KATHMANDU June 8: When it comes to foreign employment, cases of Nepalis cheating fellow Nepalis are growing day by day. Foreign employment is a compulsion for many Nepali youths. Many people take advantage of this compulsion to exploit them.

Sujan Acharya, who identified himself as a journalist, pledged  to  help people with immigration to Singapore. But he was later found to have swindled a hundred million rupees from 39 people.

Out of the 39 people, four youths have been trapped in a hotel in Kathmandu since the last four months because they are unable to pay the hotel bill after Acharya took away all the money they had brought with them from their hometown. Meen Adhikari and Prem Saud of Achham district along with Jharendra Singh of Bajura and Surendra Shah of Kailali are being held hostage in the Old Durbar Hotel in Koteshwar, Kathmandu.

Unable to pay the hotel bill as they were waiting for Acharya’s instructions, the four were forced to become hostages due to their unavoidable circumstances. 

The four people had taken loans to hand over the money to Acharya, who promised to send them to Singapore for work. After collecting money, Acharya went out of contact. 

“Sujan Acharya is unreachable,” said Prem Saud, “The owner ended up taking us hostage because we were unable to pay the hotel bill. The four of us have been forced to stay in the hotel for months.” 

The four stayed in the hotel and used services worth about Rs 450,000. The hotel owner took all their official documents including passports and citizenships.

“He has not even let us out, fearing that we will run away," said Saud. "Acharya, who sold us dreams of sending us to Singapore, is out of touch. Our family members have suffered a lot for not paying the installments of Rs 1.2 million debt we took. I have not even been in touch with my family for a month.” 

Saud met Acharya, whose permanent address is Udayapur’s Triyuga Municipality-10 and is currently living in Singapore, through his neighbor Anil Adhikari. Saud, who had been making a living by working in hotels in India for years, was attracted by the prospect of working in Singapore. Saud said that the promise of a job with an attractive salary and facilities in Acharya's own Singaporean hotel company was just a honey-trap.

Acharya lured 39 young people, including Saud, with the prospect of earning USD 3,000 to 4,800 a month in Singapore. 

Saud was among the seven people invited to Singapore on a visit visa by Acharya to make a 'travel history'. Saud expressed his grief about having to return less than a week after arriving in Singapore. His earnings in India were good. His dream of working in Singapore sunk Rs 1.2 million of his money.

Saud says he took loans of Rs 600,000 and another Rs 600,000 by mortgaging his land to arrange Rs 1.2 million demanded by Acharya. He then handed over the amount to Acharya’s partner Binu Shakya in Bhaktapur as per the instruction of Acharya.

Saud said that Acharya had instructed him to stay at Old Darbar Hotel for 10-15 days and that he would send money to the hotel owner from Singapore. As per Acharya’s instructions, Saud would then have to board a plane to Singapore where he would get a good job. Saud and other victims  waited for days, which later turned into months but Acharya did not respond and they ended up as hostages. 

Meen Adhikari also shared a similar story. Adhikari fell in the trap as he believed Acharya’s claims that he was the owner of S Group Global Company based in Singapore. Adhikari said, “Fake, photoshopped documents were shared. Acharya claimed that the company is going to invest heavily in the hospitality business and also has a stake in the five-star Vilandro Hotel in Singapore. Acharya spared no tricks to keep us confused. He did whatever he could to keep us trapped. He used to say that he has already made a deal worth crores to buy Nepali restaurants like Gorkha, Everest and Himalayan.” 

According to the victims, Acharya assured them that once they reach Singapore and return, they will create a 'travel history', then they will have to stay in Nepal for two months. He gave fake assurance that they would get two thousand dollars for the two months, and then they could go back to Singapore and work comfortably.

“It didn't matter how smart a person was, he would do whatever he could to trap them. How could it be that not one of the 39 people were smart? Why would anyone deliberately take an axe to their heads?” complained Adhikari. Day by day, the hotel bill has skyrocketed. Generally, people need a minimum of two meals a day. However, the hostages shared that they have to deal with the hotel owner’s verbal abuse daily when asking for a single meal. 

“We can neither die nor have we achieved anything by living this pathetic life. We are not even able to pay the debt because we are held hostage and the documents are with the hotel owners,” said Adhikari, adding, “We are locked in our rooms and are not allowed to go out. At least one person has to be in the hotel  all the time.”

If one has to go out, they need to give a convincing reason and beg the hotel owner 10 times over for permission. The victims spoke of their hellish lives and what the owner puts them through. 

Surendra Shah of Kailali also shares a similar story. He too has lost Rs 1.2 million in this affair. "We took loans by mortgaging our land and selling jewelry. Some even had to sell their land, while others took loans from cooperatives," says Shah, "They said we would fly to Singapore within a week after paying the money, but it didn’t happen so even after a year.” 

Some victims said that they deposited the money in Binu Shakya's account in Nepal Investment Mega Bank. Victims claim that she was also involved in the fraud and was hiding in Singapore with her lover Acharya. The victims claim that Acharya had collected anything between  Rs 700,000 to Rs 2 million from each of the 39 victims since 2022. 

Rajan Adhikari is the owner of Old Durbar Hotel. Adhkari says he doesn’t know Acharya personally but had talked with him through social media on a few occasions through the unsuspecting victims.

The hotel owner says that Acharya often promises to deposit the money incurred by the “boys” in his bank account but he never sends the money.

 "When there is an economic recession in Nepal, it is not possible to entertain unpaid guests for a week. My business has been at a loss for four months without money," he complained.

Acharya has caused problems to the families of 39 people who gave him money and also to those people who gave them loans, the hotel owner among others. The victims complain that the scammer, who introduced himself as a young journalist, is still absconding. 

Acharya is a person who has been arrested and released on charges like fraud, diamond scandal and blackmailing. Earlier, seven people, including Acharya, were arrested in May last year on the charge of demanding Rs 70 million from different people by threatening them.

Interpol has issued arrest warrants against Acharya twice. However, he has not been arrested yet. The first arrest warrant was issued on April 9, and the second on May 26. The victims say that various complaints against Acharya have been filed with the Department of Foreign Employment and Nepal Police. The victims are wondering why Acharya has not been arrested despite this. They suspect that Acharya is protected by powerful people. They have demanded immediate action against Acharya and want him brought to justice. 

The tendency of fraudsters finding easy victims has increased in the foreign employment business. The unemployment problem in Nepal has allowed more and more people to take advantage of those who are in trouble. Many people have been cheated while attempting to go abroad. Only after a while do the victims realize that they have been cheated. 

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