An audio recording claiming that money was paid to Arzu Rana Deuba and Manju Khand in the fake Bhutanese refugees scam has been made public.

The audio recording of one-minute and three seconds purportedly between a member of the racket involved in the scam and a victim claims that Deuba and Khand—both Nepali Congress (NC) lawmakers and wives of NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba and NC leader and former home minister Bal Krishna Khand respectively—were also paid by the racket. The recording claims that Deuba was paid Rs 25 million and Khand Rs 60 million.

The audio recording was submitted to the police by the victims at the time of lodging a formal complaint, according to a top Nepal Police officer, and is currently being investigated. “We have kept 30 minutes of the dialogue of that audio recording safely,” the source stated adding that the member of the racket speaking in the recording is also currently in police custody and being investigated.

“Investigation continues and we cannot say anything now,” the source said when asked whether Deuba and Khand were paid as claimed in the recording.

The Kathmandu Police had received 20 complaints from over 100 victims in the fake Bhutanese refugees scam.

The secretariat of lawmaker Khand, meanwhile, has claimed that the audio recording is fake. “Unnecessary audio has come in the social media. We have already written to the Press Council demanding action against the registered online for using such audio,” Khand’s associate Santosh Thapa told Setopati.

Thapa added that Manju Khand was not connected to the fake Bhutanese refugees scam and did not know anything about it.

The purported victim complains in the recording that chief district officers (CDO) are transferred whenever their work seems to be completed and rues that the victims are being milked. The member of the racket assures the victim that he would arrange everything and talks have also been held with the media.

“Rs 25 million has been submitted to Arzu. Rs 60 million has been submitted to Bal Krishna Khand, Manju Devi received at home. They have home in Hanumanthan, she received that there,” the victim has claimed.

Arzu could not be reached for comment on the audio recording but she has spoken about the issue in the House meeting on Sunday. “I have a big question about how serious we are about issues of corruption. Myriad of questions have been raised hinting toward my name when I was not present. I have found that questions have been raised even today. A woman doing politics on her own is not accepted in this country. Women should stay only where pointed by men, we should speak and exercise only the narrative that they speak. Men don’t tolerate when we come a little more in public life. This situation has been made. I have not erred no matter how much they criticize. I won’t fear,” she stated.

Former home minister Khand also issued a statement on Saturday and claimed that he was not involved in the scam.

Eight person including some senior government officials have already been arrested in the case.

Former personal secretary to NC leader Sujata Koirala, Keshav Dulal, Sanu Bhattarai, Tanka Man Gurung, advisor to former home minister Ram Bahadur Thapa, Indrajit Rai, former home secretary Tek Narayan Pandey, son of CPN-UML Secretary Top Bahadur Rayamajhi, Sandeep Rayamajhi, Sandesh Sharma and Sagar Rai have already been arrested.

Arrest warrants have also been issued in the names of Top Bahadur Rayamajhi, Ram Bahadur Thapa’s son Prateek Thapa, Indrajit Rai’s son and others.

Tens of millions were swindled from Nepali citizens with the promise of sending them to America as Bhutanese refugees in the scam.

The Home Ministry had formed a task force under the then Joint Secretary Bal Krishna Panthi in 2018 to identify previously unrecorded Bhutanese refugees. The task force had submitted its report to the Home Ministry but it was not made public leading to suspicion that fake refugees were included in that report itself.

Kathmandu Police acquired that report from the Home Ministry in April for investigation. A source claimed that over 800 fake refugees were included in that report. Genuine refugees were included only in four schedules of the report while the remaining names were added later, according to the source.

The Kathmandu Valley Crime Division had first received a complaint accusing Keshav Dulal and others of fraud by creating fake Bhutanese refugees. Police arrested Dulal and sent the file to Kathmandu Police for further investigation.

Police are investigating them under Fraud and Organized Crime.

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