All that glitters isn’t gold

  • Gold smuggling saga should provide the opportunity to scrutinise the political class

May 24, 2018-

The gold smuggling case currently being heard at the Morang District Court has so many strands and involves so many people that it is seemingly impossible to keep track of all of them. It is a seminal case, the repercussions of which will be felt for a long time to come. It involves a wide and highly complicated web of individuals from various institutions. Untangling the web will reveal not just information about specific actors but wider knowledge about how organised crime operates in this country.

At the moment, all eyes are on Chudamani Uprety, aka Gore, who is perceived to be the ringleader in the case. He is supposed to have been involved in the murders of Sanam Shakya, a carrier of smuggled goods, as well as of Sanu Ban, an employee at Tribhuvan International Airport who helped the smugglers. If there is truth to the allegations against Uprety, there is no person better equipped than him to uncover the truth of the entire matter. On Tuesday itself, Uprety revealed the names of 10 Hundi operators involved in the case who are not so far among the 65 people charged with involvement in the crime. Of course, the authorities will have to interview other witnesses and evaluate various pieces of evidence to corroborate Uprety’s claim. There is likelihood that he could be falsely incriminating some in order to prevent the incrimination of others.

It currently appears that Uprety is in a somewhat disturbed mental state and is fearful for his own life. This condition could negatively affect the court proceedings. The judicial authorities and the police need to provide him with the utmost security so as to both safeguard his rights as a defendant as well as that of a witness. Witness protection schemes in Nepal have historically been weak. And this is particularly true for witnesses who have themselves been charged with crimes. Only if Uprety is given the proper assurances can he be expected to provide useful information to the court.

As the hearings at the Morang District Court continue, many more elements of the story will emerge than what is known so far. Of particular interest will be the role of officials—both in the bureaucracy and the police—who have participated in the smuggling of gold. This will be particularly important not just to ensure that corrupt officials are removed from their positions. In addition, identifying the nature of their connivance will help the concerned agencies establish check-and-balance mechanisms to prevent the abuse of authority in the future. What the Nepali public want to know is whether the perpetrators were supported by any political leaders in the crimes they committed. Politicians in this country often behave that they are above the law. The current gold smuggling saga should be an occasion where their role is scrutinised and specific individuals are brought to justice.

Published: 24-05-2018 08:15

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