Valley

In his own words: How a man whisked away gold from Indian smugglers

  • Authorities say a man, who was arrested with 23 kilos of gold, admitted that the gold actually belongs to Indian smugglers—he stole from them
- PRITHVI MAN SHRESTHA, Kathmandu

Feb 27, 2019-

Six months ago, Laxman Tiruwa landed a job as a driver in India. His task: to drive a car from New Delhi to Mizoram, an Indian state bordering Myanmar. All he was supposed to do was follow a couple of other cars travelling to and from the New Delhi-Mizoram route.

In the beginning, Laxman, like most other drivers, had no clue what they were transporting in the cars. Until one day, one of the experienced drivers told him that they were gold smugglers and that they had been transporting gold between Delhi and Mizoram.

The “experienced” driver even told him that the cars had GPS tracker installed. But last November, Laxman removed the GPS tracker from his car and fled to Nepal with 32 kilograms of gold, driving through Bhairahawa and arriving in his village of Jhalari in Kanchanpur district.

That’s the story Laxman, and his brother Suraj Tiruwa, have told authorities from the Department of Revenue Investigation after they were arrested in February with the gold. Police said 18kg of the gold was hidden inside his brother-in-law’s house while the remaining 5kg was tucked in the chicken pen of his own home.

If the story of how Laxman and Suraj got hold of the gold worth hundreds of thousands of rupees is mind-boggling, you’d have to hear how the police caught on with the Tiruwa brothers.

According to the director general of the Department of Revenue Investigation, Laxman told the investigators that even though he had removed the GPS system from the car before driving into the Nepal border, the Indian smugglers had begun searching for him as soon as he disappeared. At the same time, after bringing the car into Bhairahawa, he had to search for at least four hours to find the gold--it was hidden in a box behind the number plate.

In Delhi, the Indian smugglers got hold of the man who had recommended Laxman for the driving job and started threatening his relatives in the city.

Officials said that during interrogation, Laxman said he had actually transported around 32 kg of gold into Nepal but returned about eight kilos after smugglers were able to find his whereabouts and later tortured the man who connected them in Delhi.

According to a police officer in the Kailali District Police Office, Laxman came under pressure and told his brother, Suraj--he worked as a police constable in Kailali--about the gold. Suraj immediately registered a complaint with the police essentially lying that his elder brother had been missing for some time.

The Central Bureau of Investigation mobilised its personnel to find Laxman and looked into the the two brothers’ call details. Not only had the two brothers been in touch recently, but the cell phone communication also showed that they’d talked about gold.

“Our personnel sensed something unusual about the disappearance of Laxman. We found him in Kapilvastu by tracking his mobile location,” Deputy Inspector General of Police Niraj Shahi, chief of the CIB,  told the Post. “During interrogation, we found that Laxman had whisked away the gold from India and his brother appears to have helped him to hide the gold.”

Laxman, who the police in Kanchanpur said is in his late 30s, went to New Delhi in May last year. Officials told the Post that Laxman had been travelling to India and back to his village regularly since the age of 14, doing menial jobs to earn for the family. Before going to Delhi last May, he spent a year at home in carpentry work.

Suraj, in his early 30s, had joined the police force about eight years ago and had been posted at the District Police Office in Kailali only eight months ago. His superiors who have worked with him said Suraj did not have a bad track record and he had always carried out his job like everyone else.

“That’s why we are surprised and sad that he has been embroiled in hiding the gold with his brother,” said Govinda Khadka, a police inspector at the district office. “It has smeared the image of the police.”

The CIB has labelled the case of the Tiruwa brothers as gold smuggling and handed them to the revenue investigation officials. The gold is currently sealed and placed at the Central Bank in Kathmandu, where it will officially go into the government’s treasury.

It is unclear whether the gold obtained from the Tiruwa brothers has any connection with the 33kg gold that has precious metal missing from Kathmandu.

In December last year, India’s Directorate of Revenue Intelligence had detained two Nepali nationals--Hem Prasad Sharma and Rakesh Prasad--with 33kg of gold in Kolkata. Officials in Nepal suspect it is the same gold that had disappeared from Kathmandu, and made national headlines after one of the smugglers was found dead and several senior police officers were accused of playing a role in the smuggling.

“Based on the information shared by the brothers, we have concluded that Laxman brought the gold that belonged to Indian smugglers,” said Dirgha Raj Mainali, the director general of the Department of Revenue Investigation.

As a carrier, Laxman has told investigators that he does not know a whole lot about the Indian smugglers. But, as Laxman recorded in his statement, he was mobilised by an Indian national based in New Delhi,  Mainali added.

According to Mainali, they have not yet noticed during interrogation the involvement of any Nepali smugglers. “But, we have yet to reach a conclusion,” he said.

On Sunday, the Kathmandu District Court extended the judicial custody of the two brothers. After completing the investigation, the department plans to register a case against the two brothers on the charge of gold smuggling.

As per the Revenue Leakage (Investigation and Control) Act, those involved in revenue dodging are subjected to face a jail term up to three years and fine double the value of the revenue lost along with recovery of the lost amount. “This law will be applicable in the case of these two brothers as well,” Mainali told the Post.

Officials at the Central Investigation Bureau and the Department of Revenue Investigation refused to confirm whether their Indian counterparts have sought information--or reached out to Nepali officials--about the gold.

“I don’t know if they have shown any interest with other agencies within the government,” said Shahi at the CIB. “Even if they have, it would be normal to inquire about a case like this.”

Published: 27-02-2019 07:31

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