Arrest of Dawa Tsering looks likely to reveal political connections in gold smuggling.
Photos of Tsering and his wife Amala Roka Magar with CPN (Maoist Center) Deputy General Secretary Barsha Man Pun and his wife and former speaker Onsari Gharti Magar, and the family of former vice-president Nanda Kishore Pun have been shared extensively on the social media.
Barsha Man Pun has already claimed that he has no connection to Belgian national Tsering who was arrested in connection with the case on Sunday, and added that attempts were being made to link him to Tsering in a planned manner to divert the government’s campaign against corruption and irregularities elsewhere.
Pun has said that Amala Roka Magar, who belongs to a martyr’s family and is also a party cadre in Thawang in his home district of Rolpa, married Tsering and had once brought her husband to Pun’s flat to introduce him.
“After Dawa was arrested, a group photo taken during a gathering eight years ago was publicized linking it with the present incident,” Pun has stated. “This is an attack on my public image and an assassination of my character.”
Pointing that many have been calling for Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha to resign over the gold smuggling case and that attempts are also being made to link Maoist Vice-chairman Krishna Bahadur Mahara and him to the case, Pun has demanded an investigation into the incident to find out the truth.
He has called for formation of a police team comprising crime investigation experts, a parliamentary committee or a special committee to investigate all those named in the smuggling case and said that he is ready to face any kind of punishment if the investigation finds him guilty, adding that other leaders should also be ready to do the same.
Nanda Kishore Pun’s son Dipesh Pun, who is general secretary of the student wing of the party, has also pointed that he knows Tsering only due to Rolpa connection of the latter’s wife Amala Roka Magar. “We have cordial relation with the people of Rolpa and the relation is emotional if they are from Thawang. We, therefore, went to Amala Roka’s hotel when citizens from Rolpa came there. The photos clicked then have been made public now,” Dipesh Pun has told Setopati. “We would have helped them escape if we were also involved.”
The main opposition CPN-UML has been obstructing House proceedings over the gold smuggling case. Pointing that mules are being arrested in the case and the actual owners are being let off it has been stating that House obstruction will continue until the actual owners are arrested. It seems quietly confident that the politicians who can be dragged in the case would be from the ruling coalition and not UML.
The investigators believe that Tsering is the biggest player in the case to be arrested till date and are now trying to dig his political connections if any, and find out who he shared the profits from gold smuggling with.
Those involved in investigations claim that important evidence was recovered after the raid by Department of Revenue Investigation (DRI) in the Hotel Vienna run by Tsering on Sunday. “He had canceled the consignment for another 100 kilograms of gold from Hong Kong after the gold was seized in Kathmandu on July 18,” a source has revealed. “The evidence has been recovered from his mobile phone. That is the biggest evidence of Tsering’s involvement in this case.”
The investigators expect Tsering to reveal about involvement of politicians or other persons in the case while giving statement. “Dawa Tsering seemed to have this self-confidence that no one can touch him until we went for raid,” the source added. “Raiding his hotel was not a small risk.”
A few mules and junior staffers at the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) were arrested first after a large quantity of gold recovered from hidden inside brake shoes used in scooters on July 18.
An Indian national Thapten Tsering and Chinese national Lin Jexiang were later arrested in the case.
The investigators believe that Chinese nationals are the ring-leaders of gold smuggling and three godowns in Balwuatar, Sorhakhutte and Lazimpat used by the Chinese nationals, and one factory in Tokha have been raided until now.
Preliminary investigations have revealed that the Chinese nationals were operating from the factory in Tokha where they have been melting smuggled gold and giving different shapes for the past three years.
Five houses including two in Lazimpat, and one each in Dhumbarahi, Chappal Karkhana and Dhapasi used by the Chinese nationals as residence have also been raided but nothing important has been found from those houses.
Indian national Thapten Tsering, who served a five-year sentence from 2013 in Nepalgunj Jail over smuggling of rhino horns, had arranged those houses for the Chinese nationals. Owners of all five houses currently live abroad.
A Chinese national named Tashi, with connection to the arrested Chinese national Lin, has also provided crucial links in the investigations leading the investigators to arrest Dawa Tsering.
The investigators reveal that there were three stages involved in gold smuggling. Tashi and Harka Rai, who opened Ready Trade Company in the name of Dilip Bhujel, were the big ones involved in the first stage. They would take the smuggled gold from the TIA to the factory in Tokha. Bhujel’s involvement has not been found in anything else beyond use of his citizenship certificate in starting the company.
The second stage would start with Lin receiving the smuggled gold at the factory. The investigators suspect that four other Chinese nationals worked with him.
The third stage starts with Dawa Tsering that involves melting the smuggled gold and giving different shapes and taking the gold out from the factory.
The investigators are now trying to find out how the smugglers got the smuggled gold cleared from the TIA Customs, and investigating why the factory, godowns and residence used by the smugglers are near the residences of VIPs and offices of the security agencies.
Delay in melting of confiscated gold
The huge quantity of gold that had passed undetected through the customs at the TIA before being confiscated on July 18 has yet to be weighed.
The DRI sent the gold, that was brought on a Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong, hidden inside brake shoes used in scooters in a way that even the X-ray machine inside the TIA would not detect it, to the Mint Division of Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) on July 20 for determining the actual quantity of gold.
The DRI suspects that the consignment of brake shoes, ordered by Ready Trade Pvt Ltd, weighing a total of 155 kilograms could contain 80-100 kilograms of gold.
The DRI has given two reasons for delay in weighing the confiscated gold. The first is related to the capacity of NRB, and the second to preservation of evidence. “NRB can only melt around 15-20 kilograms of gold a day. The other reason is we may have to present evidence to the court if asked,” another source stated. “They may ask in what state the gold was. We cannot just melt the gold now. We are delaying also due to that.”