Security lapses uncovered in last week’s gold smuggling caseInvestigations reveal two police constables let go three smugglers who were later arrested in Nawalparasi
Investigators have unravelled a series of security lapses, double-dealings and corruption intent on the part of law enforcement officers in the recent gold smuggling case in the Capital.
Tuesday's incident, in which police said it had recovered 15 kg gold only to later backtrack and say that only 500 gram of the recovered metal was gold and the rest gold-plated silver bars, is under investigation by a committee formed by the Metropolitan Police Office, Ranipokhari.
The committee’s investigation is already turning into a damning indictment of police-criminal nexus, with three officers, including a deputy superintendent of police, being treated as suspects for allegedly letting off the smugglers, deliberately misinforming superiors and hiding a portion of the recovered gold.
“We became suspicious soon after the incident was reported because the smugglers had somehow managed to flee leaving the ‘gold’ behind,” said Shyam Lal Gyawali, senior superintendent of police and chief of Kathmandu Metropolitan Police Range.
The case became even more intriguing when a police team, led by deputy superintendent of police Ranjan Kumar Dahal of Durbarmarg Police Circle, that recovered the 500 gram gold gave conflicting accounts of the incident.
An internal investigation was called for by the Nepal Police to ascertain the actual circumstances under which the whole drama unfolded. The investigation committee, led by SSP Sushil Kumar Yadav, found several security lapses and police involvement in the incident.
“The investigation revealed that the incident which was earlier claimed to have taken place in Kamaladi had actually happened in Sundhara,” said an investigative officer on condition of anonymity. “The revelation was enough to put DSP Dahal, Constable Bahadur Singh Kadayat and Constable Prasanna Shrestha under suspicion.”
The committee also found that Kadayat and Shrestha, who had claimed that the smugglers had thrown the bag containing gold bars before fleeing, had in fact let the smugglers flee after seizing the bag at an overhead pedestrian crossing at Sundhara.
The investigation also found that it was Kadayat who, while patrolling his beat, had first received a tip about the gold smuggling plan. Kadayat had shared the information with his colleague Shrestha and his superior DSP Dahal.
Kadayat and Shrestha, according to the investigating officer, had intercepted the smugglers’ vehicle at Sundhara on Tuesday and took the person to the overhead pedestrian crossing where there are no CCTV cameras and confiscated the bag.
The two constables are also being investigated for lying to their superior, DSP Dahal, and hiding one of the gold bars, which was recovered from Shrestha's rented room on Friday.
Meanwhile, Dahal has been accused of keeping the entire operation to himself. "Dahal did not inform about the operation to Kathmandu Metropolitan Police Range, which was his biggest fault,” said Gyawali.
Dahal has been recalled to the Nepal Police Academy following the scandal.
The constable duo, Kadayat and Shrestha, has been suspended for their alleged involvement in the case.
The Metropolitan Police Range, Kathmandu, in coordination with the Metropolitan Crime Division, has so far arrested altogether nine persons in connection with the case.
Police have also recovered the car used by the smugglers at an under-construction house in Nakhipot, Lalitpur.
“After hiding the car, the smugglers had fled to Nawalparasi by taking a taxi. They have been arrested since,” said the investigating officer.
The arrested suspects have been identified as Dewan Patel, 50, Bijay Patel, 40, and Nilesh Sakhiya, 40, from Nawalparasi.
Based on the statements of the three suspects, police have arrested six more people, including two police officers.
This is not the first time Nepal Police has been caught in a gold smuggling scandal. In a major smuggling case, 33.5 kgs of the yellow metal had 'disappeared' mysteriously from Kathmandu airport in November 2017.
A high-level committee was formed to probe the scam and the subsequent murder of Sanam Shakya which had found involvement of at least nine on-duty police personnel and some former police officials.
Former police officials believe that police get involved in such corruption practice and abuse their power when they realise they can earn a hefty amount without taking much risk.
“But when some officers abuse their power for their own benefit, it degrades the whole organisation image,” said Hemanta Malla, former deputy inspector general.
“This is why police promptly conduct internal investigation whenever there seems to be lapses in investigation or police corruption in criminal cases,” he added.
“If we get to know about a controversial investigation, we form another team which replaces the previous team to investigate into the case impartially,” said SSP Kuber Kadayat, Nepal Police spokesman.
“If we had continued to take the word of the two constables all this would not have been revealed,” said Gyawali of the Kathmandu Metrop0litian Police Range. “Investigations are continuing and we are trying to ascertain how much was involved.”