High-Profile Figures Arrested in Nepali-Bhutanese Refugee Racket Scandal – South Asia Time

High-Profile Figures Arrested in Nepali-Bhutanese Refugee Racket Scandal

 May 10, 2023  

Former lawmaker, immediate home minister, and top officials among those implicated.

KATHMANDU: A major scandal involving the illegal trafficking of Nepali nationals to the United States under the guise of Bhutanese refugees has led to the arrest of several high-profile individuals. The arrests include former lawmaker Indrajit Rai, immediate home minister Bal Krishna Khand, as well as Tek Narayan Pandey, a secretary at the Office of the Vice President. Pratik Thapa, son of former Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa, and former Maoist leader Top Bahadur Rayamajhi and his son Sandeep Rayamajhi, have also been implicated in the racket. Former deputy prime minister and Rayamajhi has been escaped after arrest warning was issued by the police. Despite the search continuing throughout Thursday, the Nepal Police says it is yet to nab CPN-UML secretary Top Bahadur Rayamajhi. Rayamajhi is reported to have gone out of contact since Wednesday evening after the police received a warrant to arrest him and his son Sandeep for their alleged involvement in issuing documents identifying Nepali nationals as refugees to help them go abroad easily. . 

The scandal came to light after the arrest of Sandesh Sharma, Keshav Dulal, Sagar Rai, Sanu Bhandari, and Kumar Gurung on charges of fraudulent activities related to the trafficking operation. The subsequent investigation revealed the involvement of prominent government officials and high-ranking politicians in the elaborate scheme.

According to police sources, the Kathmandu District Court issued an arrest warrant for Pratik Thapa on Wednesday, following a request from the police. Thapa is accused of financial gain through the fraudulent practice of sending Nepalis to the USA as fake Bhutanese refugees. Similarly, arrest warrants were issued against Top Bahadur Rayamajhi and his son Sandeep in the same case. The police uncovered their involvement based on the statements provided by previously arrested individuals during the investigation.

Nepal Police Spokesperson Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Kuber Kadayat confirmed the arrest of Secretary Tek Narayan Pandey on charges of fraud. Pandey, who previously held the position of Home Secretary, is accused of colluding with a gang involved in the documentation process of Nepalis as Bhutanese refugees during his tenure at the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The investigation into the criminal group behind the fraud began on June 14, 2022, following complaints filed by victims who had been scammed over the past five years. The victims alleged that they were promised opportunities to migrate to the USA as Bhutanese refugees in exchange for large sums of money.

To date, the Kathmandu Valley Crime Investigation Office has received 17 First Information Reports (FIR) and 123 formal complaints from individuals who claim to have lost millions of rupees to the fraudulent racket. The cases have been forwarded to the Teku-based District Police Range for further investigation, and preparations are underway to arrest approximately six additional suspects involved in the scam.

The preliminary findings of the investigation suggest that victims from various districts, including Kaski, Dang, Morang, Rukum, and others, were deceived by the group. The victims reportedly paid the gang between Rs 1.5 million and Rs 2 million solely for assistance in completing the Bhutanese refugee application forms.

As the investigation progresses, authorities are determined to bring all those involved in the racket to justice and prevent further exploitation of vulnerable individuals seeking opportunities abroad.