In Nepal, rage against grand larceny

Lawmakers, intellectuals and commoners are uniting against attempts of top leadership to dismiss the fake Bhutanese refugee scam.

Photo credit: @phalano

NL Today

  • Read Time 4 min.

Kathmandu: Two lawmakers, Rastriya Swatantra Party’s Swarnim Wagle and an  independent parliamentarian Amresh Kumar Singh, spoke out against the fake Bhutanese refugee scam while also outlining how the entire system has been held hostage by the corrupt actors.

In an interaction program organized by Tanka Prasad Acharya Memorial Trust in the capital on Sunday, Swarnim Wagle, who is also the economist, said that the fake Bhutanese refugee scam is simultaneous overlapping of crimes. “This is fraud, forgery, corruption, human trafficking and transnational organized crime. This is no less than sedition,” said Wagle. According to him, these overlapping crimes attract several national laws and international conventions Nepal is party to, including Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Wagle said that if Nepal fails to investigate the case fairly and bring to book those involved in the scam it will have huge implications nationally and internationally. “Credibility of the nation is at stake,” he said.

In a public interaction on Sunday, Rastriya Swatantra Party lawmaker Swarnim Wagle and independent parliamentarian Amresh Kumar Singh laid bare the dark underbelly of corruption nexus.

Wagle said the corrupt people have become so emboldened that even a thoroughly corrupt person can come up to challenge you to jail him. With the sophistication of the economy, forms of corruption have also changed, he said, there are no direct cash transactions, shares are given or gold or diamond may be exchanged instead of cash.  

“The whole regime is becoming corruption-friendly.”

Responding to the query about what he actually meant by ‘grand larceny,’ Wagle said that he used that term to refer to a deeply corrupt system with no institution being able to break the corruption nexus.

By grand larceny I am referring to the practice in which for every appointment of every key position there is trade-offs, where nearly all-important state policies are influenced by or meticulously amended to suit the vested interests through setting, and the institutions which are there to check such malfeasance such as constitutional bodies are under control of the corrupt actors, he said.

Amresh Kumar Singh furnished a document containing the list of the victims of the fake Bhutanese refugee scam and how much money they paid to the intermediaries. The independent lawmaker also warned that the whole case might be dismissed by the political leadership if the media and civil society stop raising the issue.  “If we fail to watch it constantly, if we fail to raise voice and pressure constantly, the top leaders of three parties will kill the case in a consensus,” he warned. “If justice can prevail in this case, new leadership will emerge, it will be the turning point of Nepali politics.”

He said that the frequent meetings between Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Congress president Sher Bahadur Deuba and UML chair KP Sharma Oli was directed toward giving clean chit to their cadres involved in the case.

Singh said all the appointments in state institutions are done through the intermediaries and there is exchange of huge kickbacks. “There is an all-party corruption in the country,” he said.

“I have seen and understood that around 1000 Nepalis have their money stashed in Dubai through capital flight. Hundreds of politicians, high level bureaucrats and business people have their houses there,” he said.

“In this nexus, if you catch some 15-20 brokers and take action against them, you will get the whole picture.” 

“In every appointment there is tender, there is cost.  And payment for big corruption deals does not take place in Nepal. It happens outside of the country.”

In the program, intellectuals and former bureaucrats expressed their rage and frustration against the tendency of the major parties to protect the corrupt.

Nilambar Acharya, former Nepali ambassador to India, said that the frequent meetings between the top leaders of three major parties have raised the question of if they are bent on dismissing the refugee scam. He said that to commit human trafficking in the name of Bhutanese refugee is no less than treason. “We all need to watch whether the government stands in favor of the corrupt people or against them.”

Surya Nath Upadhyay, former chief Commissioner of Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority, while appreciating the role of Nepal Police in investigating the case, said citizens’ should be constantly raising voices not to let the political actors to dismiss the case. “The CIAA can initiate the investigation into this any moment. From today itself, if it wants,” he said.

As the top leadership of the major political parties—Nepali Congress, UML and Maoist Center—is perceived to be corrupt, there is a growing mistrust among the people that the top leadership will not allow the fair investigation into the refugee scam.

Following one after another arrest of high-profile politicians and top government officials in connection to the fake Bhutanese refugee scam, Nepalis have come out to the streets spontaneously in anti-corruption rallies and protests in Kathmandu and major cities and towns across the country.  As the top leadership of the major political parties—Nepali Congress, UML and Maoist Center—is perceived to be corrupt and unaccountable, there is a growing mistrust among the public that the top leadership will allow the fair investigation of the refugee scam and book the guilty.

Several high-profile leaders and intermediaries—including former Home Minister Bal Krishna Khand, former Deputy Minister Top Bahadur Rayamajhi—and other government bureaucrats have been arrested on charges of extorting millions from the common people promising them to take them to the US by creating fake documents to prove them as refugees.

The case has triggered pent-up anger and frustration against the major political parties in Nepal.