Last month, the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) of Nepal police booked four foreign traffickers in possession of more than 2kg of cocaine in different parts of the capital Kathmandu, after the arrest of two foreign women in March.
Within the first half of 2016, six foreigners have been detained in the Himalayan country for smuggling illicit drugs.
In 2014 alone, 24 foreigners were held in Nepal including nine Indians, two Pakistanis, two Polish and two Georgians among others, whereas in 2015, 16 were arrested.
The busting of these trafficking rings over the past few years is evidence of how this least developed country is becoming a top destination for smugglers as a hub for their nefarious
activities, Xinhua reports.
DIG Jaya Bahadur Chand, head, NCB, which oversees anti-drug initiatives, said recently, “We accept that foreigners have been involved in drug trafficking via Nepal to international destinations. But it is our responsibility if our land is being used as a transit hub. We will not allow these criminal organisations to use Nepal in this manner.”
According to the DIG, citizens from Singapore, Bolivia, South Africa, India and Pakistan are involved in drug smuggling in Nepal. These smugglers try to use Nepal for several reasons, including lax security screening at the airport and a
lack of strict anti-drug laws.
From Kathmandu, illicit drugs like cocaine and heroin are often supplied to India, China, Thailand, Europe and the US from Nepal’s only international airport, Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA).
The airport doesn’t have advanced technologies including the latest drug screening X-ray machines. The TIA is only equipped with outdated drug-testing machines, which can barely detect hidden drugs, officials at the anti-drug body said.
Accepting the lack of technologies, the NCB, however, asserts that airport is able to investigate the smuggling of arms and ammunitions, terrorism and other forms of crime.
“We don’t have loopholes or weak security inside the airport as has been claimed. The matter is under the control of professional and dedicated team of police,” DIG Chand claimed.
A number of cases have revealed that the traffickers also use land routes for the supply of drugs to border-sharing India and China.
Senior Superintendent of Police Ganesh K C said, “Soft drugs like hashish and marijuana are mostly transferred to Indian cities like New Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta and Lucknow via Nepalese townships
Many of drug racketeers have even switched to air parcels and courier services to smuggle the drugs, to lessen the risk of arrest in the airport.
These smugglers often conceal the small consignment of drugs in shoes, sandals, books, hennas, frames, and tea and coffee packets among others wrapped in packed cartons.
According to the NCB, more than a dozen drug smuggling attempts through postal service have been recorded in the last three years.
The General Post Office located in the centre of Kathmandu, which receives more than 50 parcels every day including those from overseas, accepts that it has recorded a few
Uddav Kumar Budathoki, an officer at the parcel department of the General Post Office, said, “The drug carriers choose air parcels these days because we have a manual checking system here. Due to the hand checks, the drug carriers have switched to concealing the items in small packages. These small consignments are usually for samples.”
Authorities claim that Nepal is also preferred as a smuggling route by foreigners for illicit drug trafficking due to a lack of extradition laws. The NCB claims that due to the lack of the death penalty and cheap fines, traffickers are finding Nepal as a viable market to ship drugs.
“One of the biggest reason for the traffickers to select Nepal for transit is we don’t have the death sentence. Punishment for trafficking is currently from 15 years in jail to life imprisonment and a penalty of up to Nepalese Rs2.5mn,” DIG Chand said.
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