The increasing number of illegal activities by Chinese nationals has become a serious concern for Nepal.
On July 26, Nepal Police raided a call centre operated by Chinese nationals. During the raid, police arrested 36 people including a Chinese national, and seized Nepali rupees (NPR) 829,00 as well as 262 laptops and 748 desktops.
Of late, police have noticed similar call centres in Kathmandu and other parts of the country. Police have been closely monitoring activities of foreign nationals, especially Chinese.
On July 29, Nepal Police carried out a raid in yet another call centre operated by Chinese nationals. During this, four Chinese were arrested and 472 mobile sets, 26 laptops, 1,620 SIM cards of Ncell (Nepali cell operators), 20 SIM cards of Smart Cell, 10 pen drives, and recharge cards worth Rs 190,000 were seized.
Four Chinese were arrested on June 7 at the border of Kathmandu along with cash NPR 40 million.
It has been seen that Chinese nationals rent houses in Kathmandu to operate the call centres. In one of the call centres, locals were hired as staff in the guise of promotional activities, but were forced to abuse Indian borrowers and blackmail them with morphed pictures to extort money.
Chinese nationals are setting up illegal call centres in Nepal to target Indians through instant loan apps by providing loans to them at high interest rates. However, the high technology used by the Chinese makes it difficult for Nepal to retrieve the data.
“The reason behind the increase in illegal activities is that Nepal as a country welcomes tourists from across the world with trust. But one thing is clear: foreign nationals including Chinese and Indians are involved in illegal activities in Nepal,” Tek Prasad Rai, DIG and spokesperson of Nepal Police, told WION.
Asked about the reason for Chinese involvement in most of the cases, Rai said, “They see Nepal as an opportunity to carry out crimes. They rent a house and pay extra rent to conduct their business including additional benefits to landlords. They try to be friends with local Nepalis to carry out their business. The call centres are in the name of Nepalis, they are just like service centres.
“Later, after investigation, we found out that multiple illegal activities are being carried out via centre. So, Nepal has become accessible to the Chinese. We trust our visitors, but it has become necessary to understand that illegal activities are being carried out by them.”
“Earlier, we raided a call centre and there was the involvement of Indians and Chinese, mainly led by Chinese. In the name of call centres, the Chinese were performing fraud activities targeting Indians through different loan apps. In this case, they have made Indians victims of the crime. They are cases of money laundering and following which the investigation is underway,” he added.
In the capital Kathmandu in 2017, there were zero fraud/illegal cases registered against the Chinese. In 2019, some 94 Chinese nationals were arrested on grounds of public offenses, banking fraud, and black marketing. In 2020, 29 Chinese were taken into custody for online gambling, public offense, kidnapping and bank fraud. In 2021 again, 18 Chinese were arrested for similar criminal cases like online gambling and bank fraud.
The Chinese citizens who have been arrested in most of the cases have been acquitted because the operations were hasty.
Earlier in April, a team of police in Kathmandu arrested 22 Chinese nationals for cybercrime and handed them over to the Department of Immigration, but it could not detain them even till the evening of the same day.
Nepal Police with CIB in 2020 carried out a joint operation and arrested 122 Chinese nationals. It is considered to be one of the biggest operations conducted so far. The police seized 747 mobiles, 331 laptops, 18 CPUs, 99 monitors, 22 pen drives, 327 sim cards and 67 passports from the arrestees.
As the Chinese security officers took away all the equipment seized from the arrested Chinese nationals, the Nepal police did not find any trace of the Chinese fraud.
The arrested Chinese were said to be involved in various financial crimes like gambling, betting, and other internet-related frauds facilitated via their call centres. However, Nepal Police did not find a strong basis to confirm such allegations.
Advocates in Nepal believe there is a need for another new law to fight the increasing cybercrime in the country.
“There is no doubt that there is a need for a new law. The present law as per the government does not give us the privilege to get information or support from apps like Facebook, Messenger, or Viber. Nowadays, there are different kinds of crimes are happening on the internet through different apps. During the investigation, it is up to them to extend support, and most of the time we do not have any support. It is difficult to investigate cybercrimes here. So, there is a need for improvement,” Ganga Prasad Poudel, Chief of District Government Attorney Office told WION.
“Nepal’s current cyber law ‘The Electronic Transaction Act (2008)’ only supports cases of online crimes like electronic transaction fraud, banking fraud, and hacking but nowadays there are different and new kinds of cybercrime. So, to fight that, the present law is not enough looking at all the sectors,” he added.
Often, Chinese nationals are suspected to be part of a syndicate involved in cross-border online betting. However, neither the immigration agency nor the police have the right technology and workforce to confirm the suspicion. Therefore, with no option left, arrested Chinese are deported to China even before prosecution.
There is no ban on foreigners working in Nepal, but they must obtain a work permit, Chinese citizens come on a visit visa and renew it every six months and live illegally.
Chinese networks have spread everywhere from gold, dollars, wildlife parts, herbal smuggling, hacking, human kidnapping, attempted murder, human trafficking, drug trafficking, online fraud, gambling and game centres, and illegal medical practices.
A senior police official said Chinese activities in Nepal have increased to such a large extent that it has become ‘Chinatown’.