Probe report fails to track whereabouts of 33 kg gold

Kathmandu, August 2

A special probe committee formed to investigate the March 2 murder of Sanam Shakya and the disappearance of 33 kg smuggled gold has been unsuccessful in providing a key information: the whereabouts of the ‘lost’ yellow metal.

The committee, which conducted the investigation for four months and submitted a lengthy report yesterday, should have delved into the matter because the disappearance of 33 kg of gold was the main reason for Shakya’s murder. Instead, the committee has tried to sidestep this issue by stating that the core focus should be on curbing gold smuggling.

“The key issue is dismantling smuggling racket rather than spending time in search of disappeared gold,” a committee member said on condition of anonymity, adding, “Investigation into an organised crime is a complex process and it has neither beginning nor end point.”

The committee member said the ‘lost’ gold ‘may have been circulated in the market or smuggled to India’. The owner of the ‘lost’ gold was Mohan Kumar Agrawal, while Bimal Poddar, Raju Daruka, Bhujung Gurung and others were involved in its smuggling, sources said.

A nine-member probe panel was formed on April 3 after Shakya was allegedly electrocuted by members of the smuggling racket led by Chudamani Upreti aka Gorey in collusion with police officials in Urlabari of Morang on March 2 for ‘involvement in the disappearance of gold smuggled from Dubai via TIA on January 23’.

The committee led by Ishwar Raj Paudel, joint secretary at the Ministry of Home Affairs, submitted a 752-page report to Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli last evening. Many were expecting the report to expose names of ‘influential people’, including politicians, as it was not possible to smuggle gold into Nepal via the international airport without the protection of powerful people. But no political leader has been implicated by the report.

The report has, however, recommended investigation of 293 more suspects in connection with gold smuggling and hundi,  an illegal international money transfer business which aids smuggling of the yellow metal. The names of the suspects have not been mentioned in the report, ‘as it can affect future probe’.

The investigation into Shakya’s murder and disappearance of 33 kg smuggled gold exposed a wide network of gold smugglers, including police officials. Since then charge-sheets have been filed against 75 people, including nine serving and former police officials, at Morang District Court. As many as 30 defendants are still at large.

The mastermind behind the gold smuggling ring, according to the committee, was Gorey. The ring had managed to smuggle around 3,800 kg gold worth over Rs 17 billion from Dubai through TIA since 2015. Things, however, took a nasty turn after the disappearance of 33 kg gold and at least two persons other than Shakya lost their lives. Thai Airlines employee Sanu Ban died suspiciously on TIA premises after being hit by a truck and Premlal Chaudhary, head loader of Nepal Airlines Corporation at TIA, committed suicide. The committee has blamed Gorey for their deaths as well. Earlier, police officials had colluded with gold smugglers and attempted to let Gorey off the hook in the murder of Shakya, according to the committee.

The special probe committee has recommended that the government continue with the probe into gold smuggling and hundi business by forming a task force of permanent nature, as these activities are hitting revenue collection.

The panel has also recommended that the government assign a police team or any department of Nepal Police to complete the remaining tasks of the investigation, including arresting absconding suspects and introducing structural, procedural and organisational reforms in immigration, airport police and customs.