Nepalese authorities have started a probe against an Indian couple employed with Maharashtra Police after allegations of fraud surfaced regarding their claims of summiting Mount Everest this year.
The investigation by the tourism department started on Sunday after another Indian climber accused Dinesh Chandrakant Rathod and his wife Tarkeshwari of morphing the photos to claim they had reached the summit of the world’s highest peak.
“An investigation is underway and if the couple’s claim is found to be fake, the certificates issued by the department as having successfully climbed the 8,848-metre peak would be nullified,” Laxman Sharma, chief of the tourism department’s mountaineering division, told Hindustan Times on Monday.
Last month, the department issued certificates to the couple - who claimed to be the world’s first husband-wife police team to have reached the peak together on May 23 - based on photos submitted by them as proof.
The claim was later challenged by Bangalore-based climber Satyarup Siddhantha, who alleged the couple had doctored photos of his climb to the peak on May 21 to make their claim.
The tourism department is also questioning officials of Makalu Adventure Treks, a Kathmandu-based expedition organiser, responsible for the couple’s Everest bid, and the department’s liaison officer, who had certified that their claim was genuine.
Disregarding the usual practice of confirming claims made by climbers with their Sherpa guides, the liaison officer stationed at Everest Base Camp had verified the couple’s claim as genuine without consulting the two Nepali guides who were with them.
The tourism department has also asked the Rathod couple to visit Kathmandu and present their case to the team conducting the investigation.
Maharashtra Police has initiated a separate investigation against the couple, both employed as constables, after the allegations by Siddhantha surfaced.
If the allegations are proven, their certificates will be cancelled and they might be prevented from making any future attempts on peaks in the Nepal Himalayas. The expedition organiser’s license could also be cancelled.
After two disaster-ridden seasons in 2014 and 2015 that claimed 35 lives and prevented climbing from the Nepali side, 456 climbers, including more than 250 foreigners, reached the peak of Everest in May this year.