CPN (Maoist Center) Spokesperson Krishna Bahadur Mahara and his son Rahul Mahara have come under investigation in gold smuggling.
Police have found that former speaker Mahara and his son were in contact with those involved in bringing gold disguised as e-cigarettes while investigating the case.
The customs office at the Tribhuvan International Airport had confiscated 729 e-cigarettes from a Chinese national named Li Hansong who arrived on a Fly Dubai flight on December 25, 2022.
Chief Customs Officer Mukti Prasad Shrestha had ordered confiscation of the e-cigarettes giving one to the Chinese national for the latter’s use pointing that goods brought for commercial purpose cannot be cleared from the passengers’ section when the Chinese national claimed that the e-cigarettes were brought for business purpose.
The Chinese national, who was allowed to leave after confiscation of the e-cigarettes, left Nepal after staying here for a few days.
The authorities found out that the e-cigarettes were actually gold only after investigations when a staffer at the customs office realized that the e-cigarettes were changed from the store.
A non-gazetted first-class official of TIA Customs Office Rewant Khadka and customs agent Dinesh Basnet had collaborated to change the e-cigarettes, extracted around nine kilograms of gold from the e-cigarettes and sold that for Rs 60 million by then.
Khadka briefed about the whole episode of extracting gold in course of investigations and six persons including the three were arrested. The arrested persons included Ved Prakash Agrawal (54) from India, Indian national Saheb Rao Pandurang Marag (39), Amrit Karki (32) from Sunkoshi-6, Sindhupalchok currently residing at Shantinagar, Kathmandu, and Nirmal Kumar BK (22) residing in Pokhara were the other persons arrested in the case.
The Kathmandu District Court on Monday has sent the five arrested persons to police custody while Karki has been released on date.
The investigation report submitted by the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) of Nepal Police to the District Government Attorney’s Office cites Chief Customs Officer Mukti Prasad Shrestha as saying that Rahul Mahara had contacted him and inquired about the process of auctioning the confiscated e-cigarettes as is done with confiscated goods by the customs office.
The CIB continued to investigate about those involved in smuggling the gold as e-cigarettes even after those involved in stealing the e-cigarettes from the store of customs office were arrested. This revealed that Maoist leader Mahara and his son Rahul were in contact with those involved in smuggling.
The CIB has even prepared a chart to explain the connection of those involved in smuggling. It shows that Maoist leader Mahara was in contact with the suspected Chinese national, while his son was in contact with other Chinese nationals and Chief Customs Officer Mukti Prasad Shrestha.
The police have yet to reveal the depth of the connection of Maharas with the smugglers. “Contact can be made with anyone. Even if the contacts have been established, why those contacts were made would be known only after the persons concerned are questioned. The Chinese national has already absconded. We cannot say they all are guilty without asking the Chinese national,” CIB Spokesperson SP Sanjay Singh Thapa told Setopati. “Investigation on Dinesh Basnet and others in this has been completed. Investigation on the network continues.”
Maoist leader Mahara was also involved in controversy following release of an audio tape in 2010 where he could be heard demanding Rs 500 million from a Chinese businessman to buy lawmakers to form a Maoist government.
The then speaker Mahara was arrested in 2019 when the then federal parliament secretariat staffer Roshni Shahi lodged a police complaint claiming that Mahara reached her rented apartment in the evening on September 29, 2019, drank alcohol and assaulted her and attempted to rape her. He has since been acquitted in the case.