Cops ‘conniving’ with smugglers of sanders

Biratnagar, June 30:

Smuggling of red sandalwood via the Kakarvitta checkpoint of eastern Nepal is flourishing with the “connivance of security agencies”. The police administration is allegedly hand in glove with the red sandalwood smugglers. From India, the red sandalwood is smuggled into Kakarvitta and from there it is taken to places like Naubise of Dhading district, and then to Kathmandu.

From Kathmandu, the sandalwood is routed to Khasa near the Tibet border and smuggled across China where there is reportedly a great demand for the red sandalwood.

Due to strict checking and frequent raids, red sandalwood is now being routed to Rasuwa via Kathmandu for smuggling it into China. Sources revealed that 11, 19, 21, 14, 7 and 9 trucks, all loaded with red sandalwood, were seized in the months of Poush, Magh, Falgun, Chaitra, Baisakh and Jeth.

Officials of the Jhapa district administration are allegedly conniving with Jhapa DAO purchase officer Dipak Pokhrel and Bimal Acharya. Personnel of the Armed Police Force, DAO rations contractor Ekraj Upreti and a former sub-inspector of police, Madan Gopal, are also said to be in the red sandalwood smuggling racket. The red sandalwood is loaded in sacks of coal and smuggled. Some 30 trucks loaded with red sandalwood were smuggled into Jhapa before the start of the monsoon.

A source said, “Every month Chief District Officer Jaymukund Khanal gets a kickback of Rs 1 lakh. Superintendent of police Yogendra Katuwal gets Rs 75,000 while APF superintendent Naresh Karki and Dhruv Oli of the National Investigation get Rs 50,000 each.”

According to the same source, for every truck of red sandalwood, the Home Minister and Home secretary get Rs 2 lakh. The IGs of both wings of the police (civil and APF) get Rs 1 lakh each, while the DIGs get Rs 50,000 each. The task of placing the monthly cut before the police high-ups has been entrusted to Jhapa SP Katuwal and APF SP Karki, while CDO Khanal is in charge of sending the monthly cut to the Home Minister and home secretary.

Talking to this daily, CDO Khanal said, “These allegations are baseless. Had I been with the red sandalwood smuggling racket, would I not have warned the smugglers beforehand of the Forest Minister’s private secretary’s arrival here? Who is doing what, I have no idea but I am definitely not involved in this racket.”

The Jhapa district police office recently seized 20 tonne of red sandalwood from the border areas of Kumarkhot and Tagandubba, said SP Katuwal, adding that he was not involved in the racket in any way. DAO purchase officer Pokhrel admitted to dabbling in the red sandalwood trade some months ago. “Previously I did, but not anymore.

APF SP Karki said that so far his department had been unable to seize smuggled red sandalwood. Karki added that because of the increased vigilance of the Indian SSB in India’s border areas, the red sandalwood was not being allowed to enter the Nepali territory. Meanwhile, sources claimed the Jhapa police were protecting smugglers dealing in cattle, Chinese goods, foodstuff and clothes. Police today seized a van carrying 5 tonne of smuggled red sandalwood, a report from Sindhupalchowk quoted inspector at the district police office, Hari Krishna Khatri, as saying. Driver of the van Dal Bahadur Thapa Magar has been taken into custody.

Armed bikers were escorting the red sandalwood cargo, ASI Jung Bahadur Pulami said, adding that a clash ensued with the gang members in course of seizing the van.

A team headed by DSP Sahakul Bahadur Thapa and assistant CDO Narayan Prasad Baral reached Barhabise to acquire information about the incident.