Kathmandu, September 12

Nepal Police has yet to achieve any breakthrough in the August 30 seizure of 15 kg gold from Kathmandu and Dhanusha.

Although the Central Investigation Bureau arrested seven persons with undeclared hallmark gold smuggled into Nepal via Nepal-China border of Rasuwagadhi, the alleged mastermind of the organised crime managed to escape.

According to a police source, Chair of Bhotekoshi Rural Municipality in Sindhupalchok, Raj Kumar Paudel, who was now on the ‘most wanted’ list for allegedly operating the racket, has been absconding after persons, who were arrested with the gold, spilled the beans on him.

“We are after Paudel and have launched a manhunt to nab him. He is nowhere in sight within Nepal as he took leave from the office of the rural municipality on September 7 and fled somewhere,” the source said.

Sensing that police could arrest him after his associates were arrested by CIB, he took leave and went into hiding. The source said Paudel was suspected to have fled to an undisclosed place in India and the police was working to find his whereabouts. He was elected chair of Bhotekoshi Rural Municipality from CPN-Maoist Centre’s in the first phase of local level polls.

A CIB official, however, declined to confirm the identity of suspects who were still at large in connection with the gold smuggling, saying it could hinder investigation. Suspects of the gold smuggling racket arrested by CIB on August 30 are Pemba Dorje Sherpa, 26, of Sindhupalkchowk; Dipendra Thapa, 38, Rajendra Khatri, 34, and Rabin Khatri, 34, of Bhaktapur; Saroj Thapa, 39, of Kathmandu; Bishnu Gautam, 38, of Kavre; and Deepak Kumar Sah, 38, of Dhanusa.

The source said Paudel had hired Sherpa, Thapa and others to push the smuggled gold into India and sell it in the local market.  CIB had been able to seize only 15 of the 22 kg gold reportedly received by the alleged racketeers from their Chinese ‘boss’ operating from the northern neighbour.