After about two-month long police investigations into the fake Bhutanese refugee scam, the District Government Attorney's Office, Kathmandu, has filed charge sheets against 30 suspects at the Kathmandu District Court. According to the public prosecutor’s office, it registered the cases against the suspects on Wednesday (May 24), seeking to recover a total of Rs. 288.1 million from them. The racket has been found swindling as many as 875 Nepalis on a pretext of sending them to the United States for settlement as forged Bhutanese refugees. Of the total number of accused, 16 have already been arrested while the remaining 14 are still at large.
The defendants have been charged with a crime against the state, document forgery, organised crime and cheating. Corruption and money laundering will also be attracted in the case of those holding public posts. The district prosecutor’s office has demanded that the court freeze the assets belonging to all the 30 suspects as per subsection (2) of section 15 of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act, 2070 BS. It has also requested the court to hold back their passports in accordance with section 17 of the same Act.
The police administration had submitted the charge sheets along with the 16 arrestees to the district prosecutor’s office. The captives include middlemen Keshav Dulal, Sanu Bhandari, Sagar Rai, Sandesh Sharma and Tanka Kumar Gurung, and Indra Jit Rai, Top Bahadur Rayamajhi, Sandeep Rayamajhi, Bal Krishna Khand, Tek Narayan Pandey, Ang Tawa Sherpa, Narendra KC, Govinda Kumar Chaudhari, Ram Sharan KC, Sumsher Miya and Tek Nath Rizal. Charge sheets have also been filed against Laxmi Maharjan, Keshav Tuladhar, Hari Bhakta Maharjan, Ashok Pokharel, Dhiren Rai, Deepa Humagain, Niraj Rai, Prateek Thapa, Rajesh Aryal, Mohan Raj Rai, Ashish Budhathoki, Binita Samden Limbu, Niranjan Kumar Kharel and Sunil Budhathoki as fugitive suspects. This is one of the biggest scandals uncovered in the country.
Former deputy prime minister and energy minister Top Bahadur Rayamajhi, former home minister Bal Krishna Khand, the then home secretary Tek Narayan Pandey and the security advisor to the erstwhile home minister Ram Bahadur Thapa ‘Badal’ Indra Jit Rai are some of the high-profile persons allegedly involved in this notorious scam. A member of the House of Representatives elected from Arghakhanchi district, Rayamajhi was a CPN-UML secretary. His party suspended him after he was implicated in the case. His son Sandeep is also among those detained. An influential leader of the Nepali Congress, Khand is a member of the party’s central committee. But the NC has not yet suspended Khand from his responsibility despite a lot of pressure from party leaders and cadres.
In its initial hearing, the court will take a brief statement from each of the suspects. Following this, it will conduct continuous hearings on the case. Following the registration of the charge sheets at the court, it has started recording statements. Pleading will also be conducted on whether to keep the arrestees in custody for further investigation or not.
The disclosure of the scam has its ripple effects on the political circle and the bureaucracy. The issue seems to have become dominant even in the federal parliament meetings. Different political parties and civil society members have continuously called for an impartial investigation into the fraud. Anyway, the crackdown on this racket has created a lot of glimmer of hope that all those proved guilty of this crime in the court of law will be brought to justice.