24 December 2019 I The Embassy of Nepal in Canberra says it is very much aware of illegal Hundi operators in Australia and that it has been coordinating with “relevant” Australian government agencies “to stop such illegal process of remitting money”.
“The Embassy has taken this matter to the relevant Australian agencies including banking institutions and requesting for their cooperation to stop such illegal process of remitting money,” Counsellor at the Embassy of Nepal, Durapada Sapkota, said in a response to southasia.com.au.
Mrs Sapkota confirmed that her office was aware of the fact that “Hundi – an illegal channel of remitting money – is being operated off Australia”, adding her office has “informed the concerned authorities in Kathmandu” about the illegal enterprise.
However, as the embassy agrees, the Hundi agents are duly registered Australian remittance businesses; but the trail of their funds-movement gets lost in a third country – widely believed to be used for money laundering. The money they collect from tens of thousands of Nepalese-Australians and international students from Nepal is delivered in Kathmandu illegally. In other words, the Government of Nepal earns no revenue from the Hundi trade and, numerous news reports suggest, there is no record of that money entering Nepal.
Earlier this month, southasia.com.au had approached the Embassy of Nepal in Canberra about the much-reported dark remittance business, inquiring if it was aware of who the Hundi bosses were in Australia and if it had taken any action to stop them from stealing revenue from the Government of Nepal.
The embassy refused to comment whether or not any progress was made on the previous ambassador’s claim that she would stop Hundi from being operated in Australia. “As she had to
return early, as far as we know, she couldn’t take any initiative,” Mrs Sapkota clarified.
According to the Counsellor, her mission is closely watching the people involved in the Hundi trade and the way they operate the illegal remittance. She, however, admitted that it was hard for the embassy “to check them as they are operating as licensed agencies in Australia”.
“We are continuously reporting to the concerned agencies in Kathmandu. The Government has developed a comprehensive National Strategy and Action Plan for Combating Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism (second edition) and we are also working according to it,” Mrs Sapkota added.
More than their dark nexus, the community-based Hundi business is victimising vulnerable international students as shady agents withhold their hard-earned money and use it for their own business. As a result, the intended recipients back in Nepal do not receive the money on time creating severe stress and breakdown for the concerned students.
In the first week of December, a meeting was held at the office of the Consulate General of Nepal in Melbourne which was attended by community leaders, victims and one such shady agent who was known to have multiple victims. He was let go after he explained what cause the delay and promised to pay the victims without delay, it is understood.
A Melbourne-based forerunner of the Nepalese diaspora said this incident could just be the tip of the iceberg. If the Nepalese government is really intent on busting the trade, it is only a matter of time before the culprits are cornered, he added.