EDITORIAL: Labyrinth of smuggling

Smuggling of gold in such a huge amount and arrests of serving cops have raised a serious question about the functioning of our security agencies

Charge-sheets were filed against 63 persons, including seven serving policemen, in connection with the smuggling of 33 kg of gold and murder of carrier Sanam Shakya, on Wednesday at the Morang District Court. Shakya was electrocuted to death in Urlabari on March 2. Out of the total 63 persons charge-sheeted, 29 were taken into police custody and produced before the court, which remanded them to police custody as hearing could not be held on that day due to time constraint. Police have filed cases on four counts – organised crime, gold smuggling, abduction and murder – against the accused. Others, including the mastermind of the gold smuggling Chudamani Upreti alias “Gore”, are still at large. The law enforcing agency has claimed that around 3,800 kg of gold worth more than Rs 17 billion had been smuggled into the country, mostly from Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), since July 2015. Court registrar Nawaraj Dulal said hearing on whether the accused should be released on bail or should be sent to judicial custody till the final verdict would start from Thursday.

Among those arrested in connection with the gold smuggling, organised crime, abduction and murder case, seven are serving policemen – SSP Dibesh Lohani, SP Bikashraj Khanal, DSP duo Sanjaya Raut and Prajit KC, Sub-Inspector Balkrishna Sanjel and Constable Bishnu Khadka – who, according to a Joint-Secretary Ishwor Poudel-led probe panel formed by the Ministry of Home Affairs some three weeks ago, were involved in concealing the gold smuggling and murder case. The 33kg of gold was smuggled from the TIA in the fourth week of February. Former DIG of Nepal Police Govinda Prasad Niraula, who was security in-charge at TIA before his retirement, was also arrested after he recorded his statement with the Poudel-panel formed some three weeks ago.

This is probably the first time that the Home Ministry has formed a high-level civilian panel to investigate into the gold smuggling associated with organised crime, abduction and murder. However, the panel has yet to ascertain the whereabouts of the gold missing from the TIA. This is not the first time that gold has been smuggled through the TIA, where there are different layers of security provisions involving the personnel from the DoI, National Investigation Department and Nepal Police. Retired police officials who served at the TIA at some time of their service have claimed that such a large amount of gold cannot be smuggled out of the airport so easily without the direct involvement of all security officials stationed at the airport. This case has raised a serious question about the functioning of the security-related agencies. It may also be noted that top layers of Nepal Police had been found guilty for their involvement in purchasing sub-standard vehicles and security equipment meant for the Darfur mission in Sudan in July 2011. If gold smuggling continues unabated the nation will lose a huge amount of remittances and revenues. It cannot also be ruled out smuggling of arms, fake currencies and illegal drugs from the airport. The government must break the labyrinth of smuggling by revamping the security agencies whose very image has now gone to the lowest ebb.

Fight against rabies

Rabies occurs in more than 150 countries and territories and causes around 59,000 deaths globally every year. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), one person dies of rabies every nine minutes, mostly children and the poor. Nepal is one of the countries where the burden of the disease is still high. But sadly, hospitals across the country are facing shortage of anti-rabies vaccines. Current demand of anti-rabies vaccine in the country is 1,000 vials per day. The available stock, however, stands at 10,000 vials. Hence patients at district hospitals have been deprived of the life-saving rabies jabs.

The WHO global initiative aims to end human rabies deaths by 2030. For Nepal, as well as other regions, to achieve the target, vaccinating dogs, which are the prime reservoir of rabies, could be a good starting point. Concerted efforts must be made to manage stray dogs to reduce dog bites. As far as shortage of anti-rabies vaccines is concerned, there seems to be some problem in the procurement process, which the government should streamline at the earliest. People must not die of a disease like rabies which is 100 per cent preventable.