The trials and tribulations of CIB  

Until five years ago, people had a strong belief that the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) could solve any unsolved crime. Due to the distrust towards local police, the general public wanted the involvement of CIB to investigate the unsolved crimes. In some cases, street protests have also taken place demanding the CIB to be involved in the investigation. But now things are different. The CIB, established as a specialised agency for probing serious crimes, is now shrouded in queries and controversies.

The commission, led by former high court judge Dilliraj Acharya and tasked with investigating the gold smuggling case, has cast doubt on the bureau’s operations and decisions. The commission has concluded that the individual implicated in the gold smuggling was summoned to the bureau but was released with minimal scrutiny, merely through paperwork.

According to one of the members of the committee, the absconded suspect Jeevan Chalaune was released after he did some paperwork in the office of the then SP of the bureau Sanjay Singh Thapa.  Later, due to pressure from IGP Basant Bahadur Kunwar, Chalaune was made a defendant.  

In this case, the commission has recommended action against Bureau Chief Kiran Bajracharya, SP Sanjay Singh Thapa, DSP Durga Dahal and Rugam Kunwar. They have been removed from their responsibilities and some inspectors involved in the investigation have also been removed from the bureau.

After reading the commission’s report, Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Rabi Lamichhane told OnlineKhabar on March 14 that CIB committed serious mistakes. “Everyone who acquits the guilty will be punished”, he says.

This is not the first time CIB’s action has been questioned. In the last five years, many such cases have been observed, which have raised questions about the credibility of the CIB. Along with the former directors of the CIB, the present senior officers believe that this situation is the result of making the Bureau a ‘District Police Office.’ 

“I had warned the bureau chief several times against turning it into a district police office,” says a senior police official to Onlinekhabar. “But my warnings were ignored, and now we are looking at the consequences.”

Indifferent to chain of command  

The Central Bureau of Investigation Establishment and Operation Regulations, 2013 envisages the CIB as a body ‘under the direct supervision and control of the Inspector General of Police’. However, a top police source says CIB leadership has been more “loyal” towards the home ministry than the IGP in recent years.

“The file was brought to CIB only when the case was submitted to IGP Basanta Kunwar. Otherwise, the work was done from the home ministry,” says a police officer, “Such a situation has made the bureau chief weak.” According to a former AIG of Nepal Police, recent developments suggest that political interests are influencing the CIB.

The Home Minister believes that his achievements can be showcased through the CIB. However, he fails to recognise that he has numerous other responsibilities besides overseeing the CIB,” he says. “In the past, former Home Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha also claimed credit for the work performed by the CIB, and now Rabi Lamichhane seems to be following a similar path.

According to Devendra Subedi, a former AIG, with an extensive experience in crime investigation, there are signs that ministries and individuals have dominated the organisation’s need to acquire ‘professional credibility’. Former CIB chief AIG Pushkar Karki says that CIB should be responsible to the IGP rather than the political leadership.

“I don’t know how the work is being done now, but bypassing IGP in any work is against the spirit of an organisation,” he says. He recalls questioning the bureau chief about the pending report of CIB when he was the head of the Crime Investigation Department. “However, in recent times, rather than evidence-based research, it seems like the investigating officers have begun to look for verbal orders from the political leadership,” says Karki.  

For instance, the issue of obtaining the statement of Binod Chaudhary regarding the Bansbari leather and shoe factory land case was made public by the secretariat of Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Ravi Lamichhane before the police.

There is more. While the main opposition Nepali Congress was demanding Lamichhane’s resignation in connection with the cooperative case, the CIB wrote a letter to the parliament secretariat. It stated the ongoing investigation of Chaudhary, whereas, the police had been giving information to the parliament secretariat only after arresting the MP.  Former DIG Pitambar Adhikari does not recall any instance where the CIB had sent a letter regarding the matter under investigation.   

Even when Narayan Kaji Shrestha, the senior vice-president of the Maoist Centre, was the home minister, the police relinquished their authority to political leadership. Similarly, when the court ordered an investigation into former Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal and Babu Ram Bhattarai regarding the Lalita Niwas Land Case, the CIB hesitated to act on the orders and awaited direction from external sources. 

The ruling coalition even held a meeting to discuss the investigation. Even in the case of fake Bhutanese refugees, there were discussions among the top political leadership regarding who should or should not be implicated as defendants.

Similarly, in the case involving 9 kilograms of gold smuggled by concealing them in electronic cigarettes (Vape), the bureau did not pursue the case despite ample grounds suggesting the involvement of Maoist leader Krishna Bahadur Mahara and his son Rahul Mahara.

Only after extreme pressure, did the police document the statement of the former speaker of parliament and Maoist vice president Mahara. Subsequently, his son Rahul Mahara was arrested and the court ordered to send him to prison for preliminary investigation. The commission headed by former judge Dilliraj Acharya to investigate the gold smuggling concluded that the CIB officers acquitted Mahara and recommended a case against him. 

However, the police did not immediately implement the report submitted by the commission on March 14. Instead, they seek permission from the prime minister. According to a source, only after the prime minister showed a green signal, Mahara was arrested.  

Mahara was arrested from Kapilvastu on March 18 and released on appearance bail in five days, citing health conditions as the reason. Former CIB chief Hemant Malla Thakuri points to the actions of the bureau and says that he feels the police system is being operated from outside the organisation. 

“There is a perception among citizens that the police are being directed by the government, which has led to doubts about the integrity of the CIB,” he says. “The current situation is a consequence of interference aimed at placing certain individuals above the law.” 

To work in CIB, passing an exam was mandatory

The CIB has a different history. When the police were embroiled in the Maoist conflict, those involved in crimes like kidnapping, extortion, gold smuggling, and illegal trade in arms did not get much priority from the police. The police then were focused on maintaining day-to-day law and order rather than investigating crimes. When the state becomes weak, those involved in crime can easily perform illegal activities.  

At the time, Nepali citizens were being shot by Indian professional criminals under different pretexts.  Individuals engaged in serious crimes in India began seeking refuge in the Valley. Amidst a rising trend in organised and transnational crime, the police struggled to conduct effective investigations.

According to former AIG Devendra Subedi, at that time there was a unit within the District Police Office to investigate crimes. He says, “However, a section of society always tried to influence such a team. In some cases, the local unit could not withstand the pressure. It was a situation that had to be compromised in one way or another.”

As serious organised crime involving professional criminals increased, its investigation became a challenge for a local unit. “Thus, the need for a powerful body was felt at the central level for crime investigation,” says Rajendra Singh Bhandari, the first director of the bureau. “After that, we hired 55 officers on contract and  started the CIB from the police headquarters.” 

Later, the regulation made in 2015 gave CIB the responsibility of investigating crimes that are heinous, organised, matters of public interest, national importance and serious violations of human rights. However, there is a provision that the order for investigation should be given by IGP.  It is stated that the CIB has the authority to investigate crimes falling under the jurisdiction of a police office. 

“CIB was established with a broad concept, but in terms of jurisdiction, it had limited powers,” says former AIG Bhandari, “Back then, those involved in gangsterism like Deepak Manange and Ganesh Lama were being released due to lack of evidence, and then it was proposed that they should be investigated for money laundering.” 

Manange, Lama and others who were involved in gangsterism were made to fill out forms of asset laundering. However, the authority to prosecute the case was only with the Department of Money Laundering Investigation. CIB tried to bring that right to itself but was unsuccessful. According to officials, initially, two teams were formed in the CIB to look into crimes of financial and heinous nature.

“At that time, we formed a search committee to recruit officers to the CIB, it used to bring new and experienced police officers together to the bureau,” adds former AIG Bhandari,”Searched police were also examined separately.” 

The criminal investigation track record of the officers wanted or willing to be brought to CIB was looked at. However, even now there is no exam or other kind of check to reach the higher level after entering the service in the police. Officials with a controversial image who have access to the political leadership have also reached high levels.

Previously, the track record of officers intending to join the CIB was closely monitored. However, currently, individuals entering the police force are not required to undergo any examination to advance to higher levels. Formerly, individuals working for the CIB held a distinct image or reputation due to the rigorous selection process for enrollment.

During that period, the initial team arrested members of the notorious criminal gang Black Spider Gang, known for extortion activities within the country, thus garnering public attention and recognition for the CIB. Back then the CIB also conducted a series of operations against those involved in bypassing international calls. 

On August 21, 2011, Bhandari was transferred and Upendra Kant Aryal took charge of the Bureau. The investigation of cases like the Babarmahal bombing, airport dollar smuggling, which had the involvement of police and other various cases were conducted under the leadership of the Aryal. 

During his tenure, the accused involved in the murder of former speaker Sadrul Mian was also arrested. Former state minister Sanjay Shah was arrested during Uttam Karki’s tenure, who was appointed as executive director while serving as SSP in the bureau. Under the leadership of Hemant Malla, the Nepal Police successfully publicised the suspects involved in the murder of Justice Ran Bahadur Bam.

Nawaraj Silwal seized 33 and a half kilograms of gold illegally imported through Tribhuvan International Airport. Under Pushkar Karki’s leadership following Silwal, Samir Man Singh Basnyat, the main planner of the Sharad Gauchan murder, was arrested by the bureau.

During Narayan Singh Khadka’s tenure as director following Karki, the investigation into the killing of prisoner Bhakta Bahadur Sunar in Nakkhu Jail concluded. However, the investigation into the case of Nirmala Pant sparked controversy, leading to scrutiny of the leadership. According to the investigation officers, after this, the bureau did not undertake any noteworthy tasks.

Disinterest in investigation officers 

When Sarvendra Khanal was IGP, the investigation officers, allegedly close to Pushkar Karki, Khanal’s rival, were sidelined. Sub Inspector of Police Ramesh Bajgai, who was well-versed in crime investigation, was transferred to the traffic police.

Inspector Dipendra Adhikari, who was once given a special promotion as an outstanding investigator was compelled to resign. Officers like Shyam Sundar Ghimire, Kailash Karki, Rabin Dhakal, and Rujan Pandit, who served in the CIB, opted to flee abroad. Puran Chand is presently employed at the American Embassy in Nepal. 

DSP Angur JC, who went from CIB to investigate the murder and rape case of Nirmala Pant in Kanchanpur, became accused of tampering with evidence and torturing. A case was registered against him in the District Court, Kanchanpur. 

“When Niraj Shahi was the chief of the bureau, the way the then IGP interfered in the work of the investigating officers did not convey a good message,” says one of the bureau chiefs anonymously. Even if done with good intentions, none of the IGP have ever personally gone to take the statement of the accused themselves, he adds.  

When Shahi was the chief of the bureau, he arrested people indiscriminately and took action against them. Later, it was confirmed that he had taken action against the wrong person. Such a trend is not merely ruining CIB, but the entire police organisation. 

Recently, serious questions have arisen regarding some other activities and actions of the bureau. It was also disclosed to the public that an innocent individual was arrested by CIB on a charge of obtaining a medical degree based on a fake educational certificate.  

According to sources, authorities appointed bureau chiefs more for their tendency to be “yes-man” than for their capabilities. The bureau started to become stagnant due to a lack of good leadership. In all these years, CIB also did some commendable work. The arrest of Ram Bahadur Bomjan, who committed a crime in the guise of an ascetic, was one of the most successful operations of CIB. 

“However, investigations into the Lalita Niwas land case and the Bansbari land case did not reach the expected level of progress,” says an officer. According to security expert Indra Adhikari, the police are favouring political interests out of a desire for promotion, transfers, or other personal gains. In such a scenario, experts suggest that the present moment could serve as a starting point for reforming the bureau.

Former MP and security expert Deepak Prakash Bhatt says that strengthening the CIB requires commitment from the Prime Minister and Home Minister levels. “Why does everyone aspire to become the Home Minister? Is it not to expand influence through the Chief District Officers (CDOs) in 77 districts? Is it not to exert control over the police?” he questions. 

According to Apoorva Khatiwada, advocate and associate professor of Nepal Law Campus, there is a discussion among political parties in Western countries including the US on how to sharpen the criminal justice system, which never happens in Nepal.

“To safeguard the criminal justice system, agencies like the CIB should be granted independence,” says Khatiwada. “Political leadership must demonstrate a commitment to refrain from exploiting it as a tool for populism.”

React to this post

Pokharel is an Onlinekhabar correspondent covering security and crime.

More From the Author


New Old Popular