KATHMANDU: A Finance Ministry official claimed a bulk of Nepali currency has been smuggled from the country.”Nepali currency notes are illegally being exchanged in several money exchange outlets of Dubai,” according to director general at the Department of Revenue Investigation Shanta Bahadur Shrestha. “It is learnt that there are Nepali rupee exchange centres in Singapore, Qatar and UAE too.”
Foreign currency exchange outlets in Dubai were ready to exchange even Rs 1 million, he claimed.
The department suspects migrant workers were used as mules to carry Nepali notes, he said, adding that smugglers might also have used the open Indian border to carry Nepali notes to Gulf countries.
Mostly, Nepali migrant workers exchange dinars they with Nepali currency notes in Dubai and send the same home via their friends. This trend will hit dollar inflow remittance, according Shrestha. “It will also hit the national economy.”
The re-routing of the Nepali currency will hit the US dollar inflow as remittance. The US dollar is important to pay the import bill of the country and the current trend, if increases, will make it difficult for the country to clear import bill, as its US dollar reserve will deplete.
Recent months have witnessed increase in remittance inflow by 37.1 per cent to Rs 162.37 billion in the sixth month of the current fiscal. This is also due to weak Nepali currency against the dollar. In US dollar terms, remittance inflow increased by 26.7 per cent to $2.07 billion compared to 14.8 per cent growth for the same period last year. But smuggling of Nepali currency will hit remittance inflow hurting foreign exchange reserves essential for imports.
Nepali currency exchange facility in Dubai has provided ground for suspicion that big traders could be involved in illegal import of under-invoiced goods from third countries, Shanta Bahadur Shrestha said.
An official at the Ministry of Finance suspected terrorist financing may be behind this. “The currency might have reached there to pay ransom in abduction cases,” he said. “Department of Money Laundering Investigation should take initiative to address the issue.”
Nepal Rastra Bank should carry out a survey to assess the real situation of bulk cash smuggling, according to him. The central bank should also assess the problem and take appropriate measures to control cash smuggling, he suggested.by SHIROMANI DHUNGANA THT