Hong Kong to Kathmandu: Elaborate gold smuggling operation unearthed in Nepal

Gold smuggling case
The smuggled gold was melted and crafted into bricks. Photo: Aryan Dhimal

The Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) of Nepal Police has concluded that a total of 360.778 kilograms of gold was smuggled to Nepal concealed in brake shoes.

Following an investigation into the 60.716 kilograms of gold seized on July 19, the CIB has submitted a report to the public prosecutor’s office, concluding that an additional 302.06 kilograms was smuggled concealed in brake shoes. This takes the estimated total of gold smuggled to 360.778 kilograms of gold, which was concealed in brake shoes.

Additionally, CIB chief Kiran Bajracharya stated that it is further investigating the case after finding out gold was also smuggled into Nepal through various electronic devices.

Hongkong connection

break shoe - 100 kg gold smuggling case probe committee
Brake shoes found in the warehouse used by smugglers.

As revealed by the CIB investigation, Hong Kong is the place of origin of the smuggled gold. In Hong Kong, there exists a group of five individuals led by Chinese nationals Li and Lin. Their modus operandi involves concealing gold in various items, including brake shoes and electronic devices, before shipping them to Nepal.

They sent goods through Carry On Global Logistics Company which would arrive at Tribhuvan International Airport. According to SP Sanjay Singh Thapa, who is involved in the investigation, Thupten Chhiring, an Indian national of Tibetan descent, managed the arrival and transport of the gold to the warehouse.

Chhiring had established seven companies in the name of Nepali citizens with the help of Harka Raj Rai. These companies were then used to import the goods which had gold concealed in them. One such company was Ready Trade. Established in the name of Dilip Bhujel, the company imported brake shoes which had 60 kilograms of concealed the yellow metal in them.

CIB has found that Chhiring also established Hawada Electronic Suppliers in the name of Kumar Bhujel, Bhujel Enterprises and Pavati Electronics in the name of Ramkumar Bhujel, Sarita Suppliers in the name of Santosh Tamang, Chunduk Electronics in the name of Leknath Karki and Dolakha Electronics in the name of Bikundra Bhujel.

SP Thapa suggests that the smugglers initially conducted a trial run by importing goods containing a small quantity of hidden gold. After realising this could be done on a larger scale, the smugglers started concealing it in various items and smuggled it to Nepal.

Investigations have found Li and Lin informed Chhiring about the gold shipments from Hong Kong, and with the help of Harka Raj Rai, he managed to pass the goods through customs inspections successfully.

Taxi used to bring the gold out of the customs office.

Following this, the process of melting the yellow metal, which was concealed in various parts such as brake shoes, and shaping it into bars commenced. This operation was carried out in two warehouses, one in Tokha and another in Lazimpat. Yao Pucheng, also known as Alex, led the Tokha warehouse group, while Zong Jingchuan headed the Lazimpat group.

Both groups would be handed the goods by Chhiring after which they would melt the concealed gold, shape it into gold bars, and distribute them. It has been uncovered that the Tokha group used three rented vehicles, whereas the Lazimpat group relied on taxis and scooters for transportation.

A team of five individuals, including Wang Daojin and Zong Jingchuan, held the responsibility of monitoring and supervising these activities. However, the decision about the sale of the smuggled gold was made from Hong Kong.

Those arrested in the gold smuggling case being taken to the High Court.

According to investigators, the group used Nepali or Indian currency note numbers or codes as a signal to communicate with gold buyers. This same code was also shared with the Tokha and Lazimpat groups. Investigations have revealed that when someone presented this code, it was verified, and gold was sold accordingly.

SP Thapa believes there has been a deliberate effort to maintain a level of anonymity among those involved, suggesting control from individuals operating indirectly.

“It seems that they are orchestrating it in a manner that ensures the main instigators remain unfamiliar with one another, employing layers of separation,” he said.

The money trail

Only a few individuals seem to handle the distribution of money generated through the sale of gold. According to CIB, a substantial portion of these funds was discovered to be channelled to the Hong Kong-based group via digital wallets and cryptocurrencies.

The yellow metal, after being crafted into bars would then be sent to the market with the help of Suman Kharel. Kharel then took it to Shiva Kumar Saraff, a gold trader based in Bara. Police say Kharel sold it to an Indian national who is currently on the run.

Thapa says that Dawa Chhiring was tasked with receiving money from the sale of the smuggling item. Dawa is a Belgian national who used fake documents to obtain a Nepali passport and citizenship. He runs Hotel Vienna in Thamel.

“He created quite an environment to smuggle gold. We’ve seen money being deposited in his account after which it was transferred,” says Thapa.

On July 19, the Revenue Investigation Department seized approximately 100 kilograms of brake shoes containing hidden gold. This had been released by the airport’s customs office. According to this CIB, this happened after Chhiring sought help from former customs agent Rajendra Rai with the help of Harka Raj Rai.

Rajendra asked Yadav Parajuli to pass the brake shoe without hassle. But with information getting out, the Department of Revenue Investigations confiscated the smuggled yellow metal outside the airport while it was being transported.

Even though the CIB has made 50 people defendants in the case, AIG Kiran Bajracharya says this case is not over as the CIB believe there are more layers to the case.

“We are uncovering new things. They seem to have used different ways to smuggle gold. We will investigate it further and book people who were involved in this,” says Bajracharya.

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Pokharel is an Onlinekhabar correspondent covering security and crime.

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