Nearly two dozen Indians, who paid Rs.200,000 each thinking they were being offered attractive jobs in Nepal's only international airport, have been left in the lurch after the appointment letters issued to them were found to be fake.
It was a traumatic time especially for eight of them, who had already arrived in Kathmandu last month and were detained on Friday when they tried to enter the Tribhuvan International Airport with the fake visitors' passes issued to them by the fraudulent "recruiters".
The men, who come from states as diverse as West Bengal, Karnataka and Orissa, were hoodwinked by an online advertisement that said Nepal Airlines, Nepal's national carrier, was looking for technicians for maintenance work and was ready to offer a monthly pay of Rs.22,500 as well as free food and accommodation.
Four of the victims have been identified as Kaushik Biswas from West Bengal, Ashutosh Raut (Orissa), Primalraj (Karnataka) and Suresh Chelluboniya (Andhra Pradesh).
Nepal Police officer Kabin Katwal, who is leading the investigation, said the men were loathe to reveal their identities for fear of the shock and distress it could cause their families.
The men who had arrived in Kathmandu had been issued appointment letters signed in the name of Achyut Raj Pahadi, a senior official of the airline's engineering division.
Pahadi has denied any involvement, saying he was abroad on the date given in the appointment letters.
Katwal said Pahadi had been taken into custody for investigation.
The Indians gave police the names of two men who had placed the job ad and then "interviewed" them by email and phone.
Katwal said police were looking for the duo, Om Prakash Yadav and Raju Pahadi. It was not known immediately whether they were Nepali or Indian though a media report on Sunday said Yadav was of Indian origin.
The woes of the duped Indians were increased by the bristling union leaders who virtually accused them of being involved in illegal activities.
"They had passes which allowed them to go right inside the aircraft," Rajendra Regmi, of the National Workers' Association said while speaking to Himalaya Television, a private TV station.
"A number as large as 23 raises suspicion. Were they involved in any illegal activity? Could this have been a hijacking plot?"
Katwal said the men were victims and were not under detention.
"They are simply helping us with the investigation," he said.
Nepal's national carrier as well as the lone international airport have remained in the eye of frequent storms with growing allegations of corruption.
Recently, the runway and helipad at the airport developed potholes and a parliamentary committee ordered an investigation amidst allegations that the company entrusted with the maintenance had shortchanged the aviation authorities millions of rupees.
There have also been allegations of corruption in deals involving buying and maintaining aircraft and frequent political manipulation in the appointment of senior officials.