•      Sat Apr 13 2024

Head of Bal Mandir arrested on charges of child trafficking

Kathmandu: Bal Krishna Dangol, the director of Bal Mandir, the country’s oldest non-profit organisation for children, has been arrested on charges of child trafficking.

Dangol was detained by police on Wednesday morning from outside his office for his alleged role in abetting a British national in unlawfully procuring a Nepali child and assisting her in obtaining fraudulent documents to claim the baby as her own.

The British national, Dina Smith, was detained by immigration officials at Tribhuvan International Airport last week when she tried to leave the country with the infant.

Smith had arrived in the country on July 26 and claimed she had given birth to a baby, who was born on July 28. She attempted to fly out on August 7, a little over a week after the baby was born.

Initially, she told officials she had given birth to the baby herself in Kathmandu. But after tests at the Maternity Hospital proved otherwise, she confessed that she had received help from Dangol in obtaining the infant. Smith told officials that Dangol had found the baby at an abortion clinic and helped her obtain fraudulent documents, which included a birth registration certificate naming her as the mother. 

Based on the certificate prepared by the municipality office in Mahalaxmi, Lalitpur, the British Embassy in Kathmandu issued a passport in the baby’s name.

“It’s a matter of great concern that such a high-ranking official at the country’s most prominent orphanage is involved in trafficking,” said DSP Hobindra Bogati, who is leading the investigation. “There’s cause to believe that this may be part of a bigger racket.”

According to police, Dangol would regularly visit abortion clinics across Kathmandu, looking for unwanted babies. Once he found such babies, he would then contact foreign nationals looking for children. Police believe that he would then invite these foreigners to the country, help them with fraudulent paperwork, and then facilitate their exit with the child.

“Had the immigration officials not done their due diligence, Smith could have easily left the country with the baby and we would not know anything about Dangol’s involvement,” said Bogati.

A few months ago, a South Korean woman was caught trying to leave Nepal with a baby with fake papers. She was detained at the airport.

According to police, Smith was introduced to Dangol by her boyfriend, Ram Shrestha, originally from Lalitpur, who has been living in the United Kingdom. Smith wanted a child, and Dangol told her he could arrange one for her for 8,000 pounds, according to police.

The police say they have obtained CCTV footage of Dangol accepting Rs 400,000 from Smith’s brother-in-law.

So far the police have only taken Dangol into custody. But as the investigation proceeds, more names will be uncovered and arrests will be made accordingly, said Bogati.

“It’s too early to say if other officials at Bal Mandir were also involved,” said Bogati. “But there’s no denying that local level authorities played a part, and we will get them.”

According to police, Dangol and Smith will be charged under the Human Trafficking and Control Act. They are both currently in police custody.

This is not the first time that Bal Mandir, which has a network of orphanages across the country, has been embroiled in controversy. In 2014, the former head of adoptions at the organisation, Rabin Shrestha, and his accomplice, Rabin Chalise, who ran a child club there, was found guilty of sexually harassing and raping three minor girls. The two were sentenced to 16.5 years in jail by the Kathmandu District Court.