Kathmandu, September 9
Police have arrested a Nepali migrant worker with 1,400 grams gold at Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu.
Hom Bahadur Gurung, 50, who was traveling to Kathmandu from Qatar, was arrested today at 10:15am at TIA. Airport police with the help of customs office at TIA found the gold concealed inside two thick iron mortars and pestles that Gurung was carrying in his luggage.
Gurung, a permanent resident of Chipchipe-7 of Tanahun district, told police that he was unaware about the gold hidden inside the mortars and pestles that he was carrying. He also told the police that a person from his own district, whom he had met in Doha, had requested him carry the mortars and pestles and hand them over to his people at the TIA. Gurung also said that he had not met the person before.
Acting upon Gurung’s information, police have arrested two men waiting for him outside the TIA. The arrestees are Anil Luitel, 33, and Bhoj Raj Ghimire, 31, both from Pathri 2 and 9 of Morang district.
According to police, Luitel and Ghimire run a hotel at Gongabu buspark. They have not yet admitted their involvement in the smuggling case and said they were waiting at the airport for migrant workers looking for hotels.
Acting head of Airport Customs Office Dhurba Bishwakarma said, “It is a common lie that those caught in gold smuggling cases tell. We are sure that the arrestees are involved in gold smuggling racket.”
Superintendent of Police Krishna Koirala at TIA said that although Gurung has been saying that he is innocent, it is very unlikely that he did not know about the gold hidden inside the goods he was carrying. “Preliminary investigation shows that he might have been used by the racketeers who are actively involved in sending gold in small consignments through returnee migrant workers,” he added.
The TIA customs and police have confiscated 5.2 kilograms gold at TIA in the month of Shrawan (mid-July to mid-August.) In similar action, they had confiscated a total of 66 kilogram gold in fiscal 2018-19, an average of 5.5 kilogram of the precious yellow metal in one month. In fiscal 2017-18, a total of 65 kg gold had been confiscated at TIA.
Bishwakarma said they have confiscated more amount of undeclared gold in recent years due to the advanced equipment installed at the airport.
According to data with Nepal Police, smuggling and illegal trade in gold is rife in the country.
As many as 110 persons were arrested with 123.9 kilograms of undeclared gold from different parts of the country, including TIA, in the fiscal 2018-19. The value of seized gold comes to around 444.5 million rupees. Police had rounded up 90 persons with 72 kilograms of gold in the previous fiscal. According to police, racketeers generally pay a wage of around Rs 6,000 to each migrant worker for carrying home 50 grams of gold.
DIG Bishwa Raj Pokharel, Nepal Police Spokesperson, claimed that the law enforcement agency had stepped up action against persons involved in gold smuggling and illegal trade, transaction and sale of the precious yellow metal by maintaining greater vigil against suspects. Security and customs officials are on high alert to respond to newer modes of smuggling adopted by gold smugglers.
According to police, most of the smuggled gold enters Nepal from Gulf countries through TIA and Tatopani and Rasuwagadhi-Kerung points via Tibet of China.
A version of this article appears in print on September 10, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.