Ex-Indian Army soldier dupes Nepal banks to ‘malign’ MaoistsBy Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
KATHMANDU - A 32-year-old man from western Nepal has been arrested for defrauding four banks in what he said was a bid to take revenge against Nepal’s Maoist party for allegedly causing him to be sacked from the Indian Army.
Ishwari Prasad Pokhrel, who claims to have served with the Indian Army for five years from 1998 till he was fired in 2003, was arrested Monday from Kathmandu after several Nepali banks complained to police that he had been extorting money from them under the guise of top Maoist leaders.
Pokhrel had collected at least NRS 3.1 million from four Nepali banks with awesome ease, forging several passports to do that, opening accounts in the very duped banks and even collecting their ATM cards.
He obtained the names of the CEOs of the targeted banks and their phone numbers from the directory, rang them up and introduced himself as a top leader of the opposition Maoist party. He then said he needed some financial help to tide him over a temporary difficulty.
He would identify himself on phone as either Netra Bikram Chand, a Maoist MP, Janardan Sharma, former Maoist minister for peace and reconstruction, or Himal Sharma, the newly elected chief of the Maoist student organization.
He opened accounts in the four banks under the names of the three Maoist leaders and the gullible CEOs transferred the sums he had demanded into them.
During the 10 years that they had waged an armed insurrection, Nepal’s Maoists had funded their “People’s War” with bank robberies and extortion; their reputation has continued to follow them even five years after they laid down arms and returned to mainstream politics.
The cat was let out of the bag when one of the duped CEOs had a chance meeting with a Maoist leader under whose name Pokhrel was extorting his bank and the leader denied having ever sought money.
Police said they had kept Pokhrel under surveillance for several weeks before swooping down on him.
The arrested fraudster told police he was motivated by the thought of revenging himself on the Maoists by giving them a bad name.
Pokhrel said while working with the Indian Army, he had returned to Nepal in 2003 on leave. He was allegedly abducted by the Maoists, who were on a forcible recruitment spree, and detained in a Maoist labour camp for six months.
The long absence, he claimed, caused the Indian Army to sack him and made him vindictive.
Pokhrel’s arrest and modus operandi exposes the vulnerability of Nepali banks and the gullibility of the victims.
Pokhrel blamed the bankers, saying they became spineless before anyone who claimed to be a Maoist, without even bothering to check if the claim was true.
The arrest of the reported former Indian Army soldier comes less than a month after another Indian Army veteran from Nepal was hailed as a hero in both India and Nepal.
Bishnu Prasad Shrestha, a 36-year-old from Parbat, another district in western Nepal, fought off a gang of robbers on a train in India last year and singlehandedly caused almost 40 people to take to their heels.
The valiant soldier who had served with the 7/8 Gorkha Regiment in Ranchi saved a passenger from being raped and was recalled to service by the army even after retirement.