By Ram Khatry
13 January 2020
A Nepalese family is reeling under extreme financial and mental stress as their hard-earned money continues to be held up by a greedy Hundi agent who masters in the art of lying convincingly.
Hundi is an informal remittance industry which is illegal in Nepal where police and other government agencies regularly target its operators.
Raj, name changed at the request of the Hundi victim, claims he paid $5000 to the Melbourne-based Hundi agent on 31 July last year followed by five instalments of $25,000 in as many days. By 3 August 2019, documents available with southasia.com.au indicate, Raj had completed the transfer of $130,000.
Six months on, he is still chasing a big chunk of that remittance. The Hundi man throws him few thousand dollars every now and then in order to keep him quiet. The agent obviously worries Raj may go to authorities or unmask his exploitation through social media.
This latest revelation about the shady Hundi industry could only be the tip of the iceberg, just as president of Nepalese Association of Victoria (NAV) Tara Gaire appears to believe given his own experience in dealing with an increasing number of victims.
“Hundi has been making headlines for quite sometime but there have been increased complaints over the past four-five months,” Mr Gaire said in a written response to southasia.com.au. “As a social organisation, we have repeatedly requested them not to engage in such fraudulent activities but unfortunately the process has not stopped,” Mr Gaire lamented.
The NAV president is aware of the $130,000 debacle. Mr Gaire has been trying to mediate, along with few forerunners of the Melbourne-based Nepalese community, to help Raj’s family recover the tens of thousands of dollars still missing in the underbelly of Australia’s Hundi industry that preys on vulnerable members of the Nepalese diaspora.
Some Hundi agents are so callous that a customer who “remitted” $15,000 last July to help out his father undergoing a surgery back in Nepal is still waiting for the money to be delivered, Mr Gaire rues.
Raj had raised the $130,000 by selling his land in Melbourne. As the land value was not appreciating enough, he and his wife had decided to sell it and invest the proceeds in a plot of land at Chapali in Kathmandu, the young father said requesting anonymity as he is terribly worried of losing rest of the money if he unmasks the fraudster.
Until he messed up his funds, Raj had had a completely different image of the Hundi agent. “I never knew that side of his character,” he exclaimed in a conversation with southasia.com.au.
Asked why he did not use banks or bona fide remittance organisations like Western Union to send the money to Nepal, Raj quickly answers, “Better rate, that’s why!”
The Hundi agent was so cunning and convincing that he offered far better rate than another Hundi agent in Sydney, who community members say is a “wholesaler” in the shady remittance industry – an evidence of the cutthroat nature of the industry.
“He offered two rupees more than Rabindra (name changed) in Sydney,” Raj said. The Sydney wholesaler offered him NPR 80 against one Australian dollar whereas the disgraced Melbourne agent offered him NPR 82.
“That’s a difference of nearly 200,000 Nepalese rupees!” Raj exclaimed. That difference alone could be a fortune for an ordinary Nepalese family back home, he remarked.
The fraudster has been playing cat and mouse as lately as last Friday, Raj stated.
Interestingly, Raj has not told his wife about the full extent of the fraudulent lies he has been caught up in. He fears she would go berserk if she learns how painful the entire ordeal has been. “I am still lying to my wife. I do not want her to be tortured by the reality,” he said.
He recently went to the Hundi agent’s office in Melbourne City. “I called him from right in front of his office while he was inside chatting away with a man. Still, he did not receive my call. So I went inside once the visitor left his office and I nearly lost control. I was going crazy with rage,” Raj said.
What should have been a clean and quick financial transaction stretching over a few business days at the most takes seven months to eventuate – after so much of heart-break, stress and lost time.
“Victims must come forward. We, as social organisations are ready to help them,” community leader Tara Gaire assures those who have been abused by Hundi agents operating from nook and crannies of the Nepalese diaspora across Australia. He says Hundi victims are not limited to Victoria alone; people have been abused by Hundi agents as far as Tasmania and Sydney.
It is important that people research before they make use of a particular remittance agency to ensure they are legitimate remittance company, he urged.
According to Mr Gaire, Hundi agents do not refrain from issuing fake receipts to their gullible customers in order to get them off their backs even for few days.