Kathmandu, May 14. Suspended CPN-UML Secretary and former deputy prime minister Top Bahadur Rayamajhi has been arrested in connection with the fake Bhutanese refugees scam.
According to Senior Superintendent of Police Dan Bahadur Karki, chief of District Police Range, Kathmandu, Rayamajhi was arrested from Budhanilkantha Municipality in Kathmandu on Sunday.
According to a highly-placed police source, Rayamajhi was arrested from Narayan Paudel’s house in Pasikot, Budhanilkantha. Paudel is a friend of Rayamajhi’s. The two have been neighbors since their early days in Arghakhanchi and had also joined the Maoist movement together, the source said.
Rayamajhi was arrested by a special team from the Nepal Police Headquarters. Rayamajhi had been absconding after the Kathmandu District Court issued an arrest warrant for him and his son Sandeep on May 3 over their alleged involvement in the scam. Sandeep was arrested from Butwal the same day. Other people arrested in the case had implicated the two in their statements to the police.
Rayamajhi was attending an event in Arghakhanchi when the arrest warrant was issued for him.
He had said that he would return to Kathmandu and help the police with their investigation. He had also said that he would contact the police and present himself in person at the District Police Range, Kathmandu, but he had been on the run since then.
The District Police Range, Kathmandu, had issued a circular across the country for his arrest.
A team of Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) had also been deployed to search for him as police suspected he may have fled to Lucknow, India.
UML suspended Rayamajhi as party secretary on May 10, a week after the arrest warrant was issued for him.
Police had earlier arrested 12 people in connection with the scam that swindled tens of millions from Nepalis with the promise of sending them to America as Bhutanese refugees.
Those arrested are Rayamajhi’s son Sandeep, Keshav Dulal, Sanu Bhandari, Tek Narayan Pandey, Indrajit Rai, Sandesh Sharma, Sagar Rai, Tanka Kumar Gurung, Ram Sharan KC, Govinda Chaudhary, Nepali Congress leader and former home minister Bal Krishna Khand, and Khand’s personal secretary Narendra KC.
Ram Sharan KC and Govinda Chaudhary were arrested on Tuesday while Khand and his personal secretary were arrested from Khand’s residence in Kathmandu on Wednesday morning.
Meanwhile, former home minister Ram Bahadur Thapa’s son Prateek and Indrajit Rai’s son Niraj are still on the run.
The Kathmandu District Court on Sunday extended the custody of the 12 arrested by four days starting Saturday. The District Government Attorney’s Office (DGAO), Kathmandu, had sought a four-day extension of their custody for investigation. The DGAO has directed the police to complete their investigation and submit their report within that period.
Police had initially investigated the scam as a fraud case, but now they are investigating it under organized crime. Police get 60 days to investigate cases of organized crime while the quantum of punishment is also higher in cases of organized crime than that of fraud.
Keshav Dulal, Sanu Bhandari, Tanka Kumar Gurung were the first to be arrested in the case on March 26. Police have been extending the custody of people arrested on different dates after that.
Victims of the scam had filed complaints at the Kathmandu Valley Crime Investigation Office on June 1, 2022. But police started investigating the case by arresting Dulal, Bhandari and Gurung only on March 26 this year.