The Narcotics Control Bureau has arrested three members of an international drug racket within a week-long covert investigation named 'Operation Coke II'.

Police, who had a tip-off about possible cocaine trafficking inside Kathmandu, had been vigilant towards suspicious foreigners entering Kathmandu from South Africa.

On August 19, Shirley Gama, 30, a suspicious traveller, had entered Kathmandu via Cape Town via the Doha route. Police, who were keeping a close eye on Gama, were able to arrest her red-handed with 2.97 kilograms of cocaine from her hotel room at Kamaladi. Gama, with passport number A09267513, had entered Nepal on tourist visa and planned to fly to India within two days.

Police said one of the reasons for keeping a close eyes on her was that she entered the country with a tourist visa but planned to take off from here without visiting any tourist site. After Gama's arrest, police convinced her to contact her other accomplice. Eventually, police was able to nab Bijay Singh, 33, of Bangalore on August 24. Gama had called him to meet at a restaurant here in Kathmandu to buy the drug from her. Singh was supposed to traffic the highly addictive drug into India, the final destination country. The next day, another partner in the crime Gertrude Leonard Kimaro, 26, of Tanzania was arrested from a highway at Khurkot in Sindhuli district. She was trying to flee to India.

The drug confiscated from them is worth Rs 90 million in the Nepali market, said police. Superintendent of Police Jeevan Shrestha of the NCB said all the arrested were part of another cocaine racket in which nine Nepalis were arrested with similar amounts of cocaine on August 2. Police had named the previous investigation 'Operation Coke 1.' However, no foreigners were arrested at that time, even though the drug was trafficked here from the same source country with the motive of sending it to India.

Although Nepal is a growing market for narcotic drugs, the use of cocaine among drug users is very low in the country. Low consumption of cocaine in Nepal can be attributed to its high price.

"Cocaine does not really have a market here in Nepal. Since cocaine is very expensive, Nepalis can seldom afford to consume it," SP Shrestha said.

He further said the current challenge related to cocaine was to stop turning Nepal into a transit haven for trafficking the drug into foreign countries, particularly neighbouring India.

Recently, the number of foreigners involved in cocaine trafficking in Nepal has been increasing.

In December 2019, a total of five people, including three Bolivians and two Belarusians were arrested with a total of nine kilograms of cocaine in two separate operations.

Any person held with over 90 gram of cocaine can face a jail sentence up to 15 years to life imprisonment.

A version of this article appears in the print on August 30 2021, of The Himalayan Times.