Kathmandu [Nepal], May 10 (ANI): The Kathmandu District Court has extended four days of judicial custody to former Home Minister and leader of Nepali Congress Bal Krishna Khand in a fake refugee scam.
Khand was first taken for medical check-ups, then to the office of the attorney general and district court where the Kathmandu Police Circle was granted permission to keep him in custody to further investigate the matter.
Wearing a cap and mask to cover the face, Khand walked cuffs free as he was escorted in a police van to the judicial bodies for further procedures.
Earlier on Wednesday morning, the former home minister was arrested from his residence by a team from Kathmandu Police Circle. Likewise, his personal aide Narendra KC in connection to the case later on the day.
Khand’s detention comes after the arrest of a Secretary at the Office of the Vice President who previously worked as home secretary- Tek Narayan Pandey. It was Pandey who had implicated Khand and his aide in the scam and later the Police were able to collect enough evidence to indict the former Home Minister.
Police have so far arrested 12 people, including Pandey, who was appointed by Khand when he was leading the Home Ministry. Pandey worked as a secretary at the Ministry of Home Affairs from August 11, 2021, to September 18, 2022.
The high-profile arrest which has been made on Wednesday has brought a wave of welcome from the Nepali Congress as well as the opposition along with the warning to not let the culprits go loose.
Addressing the house session on Wednesday, Gagan Kumar Thapa- the General Secretary applauding the move of the arrest of the former Home Minister alerted the government not to back-track over the investigation currently ongoing.
“We have a unified voice, whosoever is involved in it (scam)- no matter the political affiliation, level or strata, must be booked. The investigation should have no impact because of the rumours- also because of the meetings and pressure from any level, there should be no impact on the investigation. I want to request- the investigation should be free and fair; innocents should be relieved but if someone is involved if it’s a leader or someone with whom you have personal relation shouldn’t be laid off,” Thapa said.
Manju Khand, the wife of arrested senior Nepali Congress leader- Balkrishna Khand is on the run. As per the Police officials, the spouse (Manju) was not present in the house but was on a video call with Bal Krishna Khand during the Police raid.
Taking a stand on the issue, the Opposition- Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) Chief also a former Deputy Prime Minister voiced the government not to let the investigation go loose owing to pressure from multiple fronts.
“The issue of fake Bhutanese Refugee scam has become the talk of the town; the scam is not only related to finance. It is an issue of defraud, offence against the state, organized crime and faking the official government documents. It indeed is a case of felony. Those involved in this scam should not be dreamt of giving excuse or weakening it on any pretext or given quittance by the government,” Rajendra Prasad Lingden, party chief, Rastriya Prajatantra party said.
The case which came to the limelight last month started after the publication of an investigative piece through the grant of the Center for Investigative Journalism- Nepal. With mounting pressure, the incumbent Home Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha directed Police bodies to carry out the investigation.
The scam slowly came to understanding after Police apprehended Tek Narayan Pandey, the incumbent Secretary at Vice President’s Office and former Home Secretary. Data and documents retrieved from the possession of Pandey busted the scam web which is still under investigation.
The data and documents exposed how Nepalis were swindled out of millions of rupees in return for sending them to the United States as Bhutanese refugees. The case further came into the limelight when an arrest warrant was issued against chief opposition CPN-UML Secretary Top Bahadur Rayamajhi, his (Top Bahadur) son Sandeep and Prateek Thapa, the son of former Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa.
Out of them, only Sandeep is in judicial custody for taking Nrs. 10 million in bribes for assisting the racketeers to prepare the documents. Top Bahadur Rayamajhi and Prateek Thapa are on run.
The Nepal Police also arrested Indra Jit Rai, adviser to the former home minister Ram Bahadur Thapa. Rai is also indicted in the case for helping the racketeers to obtain the fake document from the Home Ministry which worked as certification for them to send Nepali nationals as Bhutanese refugees to the US.
On June 14, 2022, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Nepal Police launched an investigation into a criminal group involved in a case of fraud. The group had allegedly been scamming people for years by promising to send them to the US as Bhutanese refugees.
The government action was in response to a case filed by the victims at the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority against the group a few months earlier. The case was brought to the Kathmandu Valley Crime Division only in June 2022 after which the investigation was launched.
The group has allegedly swindled over 875 people from different places in Nepal of millions of rupees.
The Police investigation found suspects collecting between one to five million Nepali rupees per head promising to send them to the US as Bhutanese refugees.
After 1990, Nepal saw a huge influx of Nepali-speaking Bhutanese nationals who were expelled from their country by the Bhutanese government in a massive ethnic cleansing drive.
The refugees were kept in several refugee camps in Morang and Jhapa districts. After a series of bilateral talks between Nepal and Bhutan failed, the international community led by the UN refugee agency started resettling the refugees in third countries, mostly in the US and Europe.
Between 2007 and 2016, the UNHCR helped resettle more than 113,500 Bhutanese refugees in eight countries in one of the largest resettlement programs globally.
Nepal’s Home Ministry had formed a task force to find out the ways for remaining Bhutanese refugees who denied resettlement. The investigative report by CIJ disclosed the infiltration by a government official- Rai in the report where he managed to manipulate the number of “left out” refugees for resettlement. (ANI)
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