Kathmandu: The `People`s Liberation Army` (PLA) under Nepal`s opposition Maoist party, which helped the guerrillas wage a 10-year war but now is preventing them from forming the new government, has come into fresh controversy with the suspected involvement of a senior fighter in criminal activities.
Ironically, while the Maoist leadership has been trying to get close to China, one of their PLA `brigadiers` - Kali Bahadur Kham - is being sought by police for robbing three Chinese traders and apparently running an organised crime gang armed with weapons looted by the Maoists during the insurgency, including arms given by the Indian government.
Kham`s suspected involvement in armed robbery and fraud came to light after three Chinese traders were robbed in a Kathmandu guesthouse Tuesday.
The three had been decoyed there by the gang members with the lure of yarshagumba, Nepal`s `Himalayan Viagra`, a fungus growing in high altitude that is believed to have aphrodisiac properties.
After the Chinese complained to police that they had been robbed of over Nepali Rs.2.6 million by the gang posing as yarshagumba sellers, a hunt for the culprits led to the arrest of six men and the trail of Kham.
Police said after raiding the homes of Kham and the others, they had recovered a cache of bullets, including those meant for Insas guns, the indigenously manufactured weapons given by the Indian government to the Nepal Army in the past to combat the growing Maoist revolt.
Police also found stamps of forest officials in Kham`s house. There have been growing allegations against the Maoists in the past that they were involved in illegal timber logging in protected areas as well as smuggling of animal parts.
Kham, who assumed the action name Vividh during the People`s War, is a senior PLA official in the Third Division of the PLA. He was to have been stationed at the Shaktikhor cantonment in Chitwan in southern Nepal.
However, Kham has been on the run since 2008 after the brutal murder of a trader once close to the Maoists.
Kathmandu-based businessman Ram Hari Shrestha was abducted from Kathmandu and beaten to death inside the cantonment over a money dispute. Then his body was thrown into a nearby river with the Maoists feigning ignorance about the murder.
Though Kham vanished as his involvement became known, he was known to have been in touch with top Maoist officials. Last year, the Maoists promoted him despite the murder rap.
The disclosure about Kham`s apparently fresh involvement in armed robberies comes at a time the Maoists are going to contend in an election to choose Nepal`s new Prime Minister.
Though the opposition party forced Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal to resign so that they could form the next government under their own leadership, they have failed to do so with the other parties refusing to support them.
Nepal`s ruling parties say the former guerrillas are still resorting to arms and violence and the prime minister`s party holds them responsible for the murder of a local leader last week.