The chase for goldThe connivance of security officers in yellow metal smuggling exposes the faultlines of policing in Nepal.
They are the strangest of bedfellows, police and smugglers. But in Nepal, they often work perfectly in tandem, pulling off high-profile gold smuggling feats like pros. But even the best-laid plans sometimes blow up in the faces of the professionals. That's when it becomes apparent that those who should, in an ideal state, be natural enemies are working as brothers in arms. Only that the public fails to be shocked each time, as the history of the country's wretched policing system repeats first as a tragedy then as a farce.
This time, too, first came the news: Police on Tuesday recovered 15 kilos of gold from smugglers from Kamaladi in Kathmandu. As the police chased the smugglers, the latter threw a bag full of gold bars and bolted. The public believed. Next came the corrigendum: All but 500 grams of the metal recovered were gold-plated silver bars. The incident had, in fact, happened in Sundhara, and not Kamaladi as reported earlier. The public winced. Then came the revelation: The police and the thieves were same-same. On Friday, one of the gold bars was recovered from the rented room of Prasanna Shrestha, one of the constables playing the good cop. The public failed to bat an eye, as it was the same old story all over again.
An initial investigation by the Nepal Police has revealed that constables Bahadur Singh Kadayat and Shrestha intercepted the smugglers' vehicle in Sundhara after they received a tip-off. They then took one of the smugglers to the overhead crossing in the area, where there are no CCTV cameras, and 'confiscated' the bag. The constable duo then hid one of the gold bars in Shrestha's room. The duo’s superior, Deputy Superintendent of Police Ranjan Kumar Dahal, who was aware of the tip-off, failed to inform the Kathmandu Metropolitan Police Range about the entire operation. Dahal has been recalled to the Nepali Police Academy, and the constable duo suspended for their involvement in the gold heist. The two police constables are being treated as suspects as they allegedly helped the smugglers escape, misinformed their superiors, and hid a portion of the gold recovered.
What began as a classic police-chase-chor story has in less than a week unravelled itself as a pathetically orchestrated gold heist drama in which smugglers, informers and police personnel jumbled up their roles big time. But the latest drama also lays bare the grisly tale of deep-rooted moral bankruptcy among police forces who orchestrate loot in connivance with smugglers, thieves, criminals and so forth. For citizens who have long lost faith in the country's security apparatus, the Tuesday incident is just a rip-off of the 2017 gold scam that unravelled after the murder of Sanam Shakya, exposing the involvement of nine on-duty police personnel and several former police officials with a gang led by Chudamani Upreti aka Gorey in the smuggling of 33.5 kilos of gold right through Kathmandu airport. Every Gorey-the-gold-smuggler has a sidekick in blue uniform—or a contingent of law enforcement officers from the ground to the high level—providing safe passage at airports, border checkpoints and between.It's not that winding, the road from 'Prahari mero sathi' to 'Prahari chor ko sathi'. All that it takes is the obliterating of the three guiding principles of the Nepal Police’s professional philosophy: Truth, service and security. Last week's poorly orchestrated gold heist, which possibly glares scores of other success stories of the unholy nexus between the police and the smugglers, should be a wake-up call for the law enforcement agency to remind its personnel that their sole purpose in professional life should be towards fulfilling their duties towards the khaki they are wearing.
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