Special probe panel’s term expiring today

Kathmandu, July 15

With just a day left for the tenure of the special probe committee formed by the Council of Ministers to investigate the March 2 murder of Sanam Shakya and the disappearance of 33 kilograms of smuggled gold to expire, it is busy finalising a report with recommendations for structural, procedural and organisational reforms in immigration, airport police and customs.

The term of office of the nine-member committee led by Ishwar Raj Paudel, joint secretary at the Ministry of Home Affairs, was extended until July 16 for the third time on June 15. It also comprises police officials and anti-graft investigators. The probe panel was formed on April 3 after Shakya was allegedly electrocuted by members of the smuggling racket led by Chudamani Upreti aka Gore in collusion with some police officials in Urlabari of Morang on March 2 for ‘involvement in the disappearance of the gold smuggled from Dubai via Tribhuvan International Airport on January 23’.

A source at the MoHA said the committee was working on the report to be submitted  to Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli before July 23. During the investigation into the murder of Shakya and disappearance of the 33 kg smuggled gold, the committee filed charge-sheet against 75 persons, including nine serving and former police officials, at Morang District Court and arrived at a conclusion that the racketeers had managed to smuggle around 3,800 kg gold with market value of over

Rs 17 billion from Dubai through TIA in 421 trips since 2015. As many as 30 defendants are still at large.

The source said that the committee has projected Gore as the mastermind behind the racket. He was also the reason behind the suspicious death of Thai Airlines employee Sanu Ban and the suicide of Premlal Chaudhary, head loader of Nepal Airlines Corporation at TIA. The committee has also reported that police officials had cooperated with the racketeer in gold smuggling and attempted to let Gore off the hook in the murder of Shakya. According to the source, Mohan Kumar Agrawal was the owner of the disappeared gold, and Bimal Poddar, Raju Daruka, Bhujung Gurung and others were also responsible for the smuggling.

The source said the Central Investigation Bureau of Nepal Police would be tasked with the responsibility of performing the remaining tasks as the chances of extending the term of the committee were very slim. The committee is also likely to recommend arrest of some more suspects, he informed.

Recently, Minister of Home Affairs Ram Bahadur Thapa had claimed that the panel would catch ‘big fish’ of the gold smuggling racket soon, but it has yet to say if any of the arrestees are among the ‘big fish’.