Prosecutors say huge amounts of money were collected from hundreds of Nepalis to be sent to the United States as Bhutanese refugees.
Nepali prosecutors have charged 30 people, including two former cabinet ministers, with corruption in a case involving forging documents to get Nepali citizens to enter the United States as Bhutanese refugees.
Former Home Minister Bal Krishna Khand, former Energy Minister Tope Bahadur Rayamajhi and former Home Minister Tek Narayan Pandey, the top bureaucrat in the ministry, were among the 16 people arrested this month and charged.
Police are looking for 14 others who were charged in absentia.
Lakshman Upadhyay Ghimire, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office, said the defendants are charged with “cheating, racketeering, document falsification and state crime.”
The case was registered in the Kathmandu District Court after police investigated allegations that he had collected a large amount of money from hundreds of Nepalese nationals with the promise of sending them to the United States as Bhutanese refugees.
“If convicted, they could be jailed for up to 15 years,” Ghimire told the Reuters news agency.
The Kathmandu Post reported that those involved allegedly “swindled around 875 Nepali citizens out of crores.”
According to the Post, Rayamajhi has been suspended as secretary of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist).
Some 120,000 Bhutanese nationals of Nepali origin have been expelled or have fled from neighboring Bhutan to Nepal since the early 1990s.
Nearly 113,000 of them have been resettled to various countries, including the US, Canada and Australia, under a third-country resettlement program after the two South Asian neighbors failed to repatriate them.
The United States has taken about 100,000 refugees from Nepal. Several thousand are still living in camps in eastern Nepal and say they want to return to Bhutan.
It was not immediately clear if any Nepali nationals had been sent to the US as bogus Bhutanese refugees.
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