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Nepal: A transit point of worries

Kristian Peter Stiegler, 45, thought he had a foolproof plan. But after successfully ­executing it for nearly two years, it fell through, and the US citizen was arrested this week by Nepal Police from his rented accommodation at Swayambhunath in Kathmandu.

india Updated: Jan 26, 2012 00:16 IST
Utpal Parashar

Kristian Peter Stiegler, 45, thought he had a foolproof plan. But after successfully ­executing it for nearly two years, it fell through, and the US citizen was arrested this week by Nepal Police from his rented accommodation at Swayambhunath in Kathmandu.

Stiegler had been using the services of Federal Express to send hashish and opium to his sister in New Orleans. He would hide them in Buddhist prayer wheels and metal boxes and his sister would earn a tidy sum by selling the banned substances to drug peddlers.

The modus operandi was detected after authorities in Dubai intercepted two parcels containing hashish, Stiegler had couriered. They informed the US Drug Enforcement Adminis­tration who in turn got in touch with the Nepal Police.

Stiegler’s arrest and other similar developments in 2011 and this January have alerted the police in Nepal that the country may be becoming a major transit point for shipment of illegal drugs to America and Eur­ope and even countries across Asia.

A Thai woman was arrested earlier this month at the Tribhu­wan International Airport while she was about to board a flight to Kuala Lampur. One kg of coc­aine — the biggest ever seizure in Nepal — inside a tin can was recovered from her possession.

She was part of a Peru-based racket and had been to seven countries including Indonesia, Peru, Argentina and Qatar. A few days later, the police busted an Afghani racket using Nepal as transit and recovered 1.2 kg of heroin packed in non-digestible capsules.

Recovery of narcotic drugs has tripled in the past four years and authorities here are worried. “Frequent seizures mean more activity of drug rackets. This is a wake-up call,” Repub­lica quoted Nawaraj Siwal, deputy chief of Narcotic Drug Control Law Enforcement Unit.

Police believe that since there is very low demand of expensive drugs such as cocaine and white heroin in Nepal, the arrests and seizures suggest that the country is again being used by cartels as a transit point after many years of lull in operations.

Nepal’s open border with India, rise of criminal groups in Terai and political instability are reasons why the country could see rise in opium ­scultivation and also become a ­production hub of synthetic drugs unless strict measures are implemented.