Foul play: Government’s bid to transfer police officers smacks of ill-intention to weaken probe into the fake Bhutanese refugee scam

The government transferred AIG Shyam Gyawali on Friday. The next target could be SSP Manoj KC and SSP Dan Bahadur Karki. All three are credited for launching and speeding up investigation on the fake Bhutanese refugee scam involving high profile political leaders.

On top AIG Shyam Gyawali. Bottom SSP Manoj KC (left) and SSP Dan Bahadur Karki (right)

Mahabir Paudyal

  • Read Time 4 min.

Kathmandu: In a flagrant intervention attempt by the governing Nepali Congress and Maoist Center to prevent Nepal Police, the country’s key law enforcing agency, from doing their duties, the government looks bent on transferring police officers who actively worked to investigate and arrest those involved in the case of forging documents to send Nepalis to the US as Bhutanese refugees by extracting millions of rupees.

Government on Friday transferred five Additional Inspector Generals (AIGs) of Nepal Police. Among them was Shyam Gyawali, the Nepal Police officer who was among a key officials to work on the investigation of the fake Bhutanese refugee scam. Gyawali, who was the chief of Kathmandu Valley Police Office, was transferred to the Administrative Department at the Nepal Police Headquarters. 

Several media reports suggest it will not be the end of the story.

The next target will probably be SSP Dr Manoj KC, the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) at Kathmandu Valley Crime Investigation Department, who leads the Kathmandu Valley Crime Investigation Department and who  is credited for launching and speeding up investigation on the scam and the people involved in it. Yet another target could be SSP Dan Bahadur Karki, head of the Kathmandu Valley Police Range, who is considered to have taken a tough stand against the scam and acted accordingly. 

Gyawali, KC and Karki are known as the officers who not only helped in investigation into the most infamous fake Bhutanese refugee scam but also were instrumental in sending the accused behind the bars.

After the police action, Kathmandu District Court, on June 16, sent 16 accused, including former ministers Bal Krishna Khand and Top Bahadur Rayamajhi and Secretary Tek Narayan Pandey, to central jail in the fake Bhutanese refugee scam.

To the chagrin of Nepali Congress, the police team led by SSP KC  had arrested Bal Krishna Khand.

The government’s bid to transfer Gyawali, and possibly also KC and Karki, comes in the wake of the development when as many as 18 additional complaints were filed at Kathmandu Valley Crime Investigation Department  on fake Bhutanese refugee scam.  The complainants, who hail from Lamjung, Sunsari, Sindhupalchok, Gorkha, Lalitpur, Chitwan and Kathmandu, have claimed that they were duped to pay around 20 million rupees.

Nepali vernacular online portals are rife with the reports that the transfer has been carried out on the behest of Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba and his spouse Arzu Rana Deuba.

High level Nepal Police sources told Nepal Live Today that the transfer, which contravenes the standards set by the Home Ministry and Nepal Police which bars transferring officers unless they have served for one year in their respective offices, has been executed with the intention of weakening the cases of the fake scam or to prevent the further investigation into the fresh complaints.

It should be noted that those arrested in the fake scam had also implicated the wife of Balkrishna Khand—Manju Khand—and wife of Sher Bahadur Deuba—Arzu Rana Deuba.

In May, after the major arrest, an audio recording that claimed a large amount of money was paid to Rana and Manju Khand  in the fake refugees scam had become public. The recording claimed that Rana was paid Rs 25 million and Khand Rs 60 million.

Rana quickly reacted and filed a complaint at Cyber Bureau of Nepal Police claiming that the audio was fake and demanding an investigation into the audio recording and action against the culprits.

Investigation, however, had revealed that the voice in the audio recording matched with Sandesh Sharma, one of those arrested on charge of fake scam.

Nepal Police officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the effort of the ruling parties is directed toward saving the big names from investigation and possible prosecution.

“Such an untimely transfer and the pressure of transfer of other capable officers is the indication of how political actors can’t stand Nepal Police investigating the criminal offense independently, especially when the investigation also drags into it politicians close to power centers,” a Nepal Police officer said. “It is clear what they want. They want their people to be spared from the investigation and prosecution. Such intervention on Nepal Police will not only undermine the morale of police officers but also raises the question of what the political actors want. Do they want rule of law or rule by their vested interests for corruption?” 

Criticized, at times, for not taking up the responsibility of  enforcing law despite its proven capacity to do so with adequate sense of urgency and often accused of serving political interests, Nepal Police had earned accolades far and wide for speeding up the investigation on fake Bhutanese  refugee scam.  Police action on the fake refugee scam had also helped rebuild the good image of the country’s primary law enforcement agency entrusted for  effective prevention and investigation of crimes and enforcement of laws.

Narayan Kaji Shrestha, the Home Minister who reportedly expressed reservations over the decision to transfer police officers, had reiterated that there will be no political interference in the investigation process on  fake scam and that the government is committed to bringing to justice everyone involved in the case, without favor or fear. 

“What became of that commitment to keep Nepal Police free from political intervention?” Another Nepal Police officer questioned.

While the fake Bhutanese refugee scam exposed the corruption-crime-politics nexus in Nepal, it has also drawn concerns from the countries where Bhutanese refugees were resettled, particularly the US.  The US State Department spokesperson has already expressed concerns about the “unlawful fabrication of refugee documents in Nepal.”