Many dishonest companies have reportedly served adulterated food to tourists, says the committee
Ending a widespread criticism over the insurance scam involving Nepal’s trekking and mountaineering agencies, Nepal Government’s special committee has come up with key findings that uncovered the confusion surrounding the scam.
A recently-released government’s special committee report found that these agencies have reportedly engaged in fraudulent practices such as fake helicopter rescues and hospital treatments in their dealings with foreign tourists.
In its 700-page investigation report submitted to the Tourism Minister Rabindra Adhikari, the government-appointed fact-finding committee reported that these operators have been earning thousands of dollars through illicit practices.
The committee reported that:
- Those operators have reportedly faked insurance companies making multiple claims on a single ride. They took advantage of the existing policies by claiming against tourist insurance policies for fake helicopter rescues forcing trekkers for airlift even for minor illness.
- They have reportedly submitted fake bills showing the need for various medical examinations for simple altitude-related headaches.
“Making false travel insurance sickness claims when you are not ill is fraud, and there are many agencies involved in the illegal business in Nepal,” said a member from the fact-finding committee.
- Lack of helicopter operators’ direct dealing left scope for middle-men or trekking & mountaineering agencies to easily manage rescue operations collecting hefty commissions.
- They have been garnering thousands of dollars from insurance firms by claiming multiple claims for single helicopter rides.
- Many dishonest companies have reportedly served adulterated food to make tourists sick and then moved them for sudden evacuation through fake helicopter services.
“This is a crime, and such operators should be prosecuted by the Home Ministry under organized crime after necessary investigation if anyone lodges a complaint,” the committee noted.
In its 700-page report to the government, the committee recommended to handover rescue activities completely to the Nepali Police department to ensure security & safety aspects and control the scope of illicit activities, starting from the next tourist season in September-November period.
“We are concerned by the bogus helicopter rescues and false medical insurance claims. In order to stop such offences, we have decided to entrust all tourist rescue-related tasks to the Nepal Police,” Tourism Secretary Krishna Prasad Devkota said in a statement.
Devkota informed that they are yet to ‘prepare a working guideline related to the rescue operations and implement it from the autumn season’ following the Cabinet’s approval.
- As part of proposed measures, Nepali Police should start seeking quotes from helicopter companies and hospitals via open competition in line with the Public Procurement Act.
- Necessary arrangements have to be made facilitating the reimbursement of medical and helicopter costs in line with clients’ insurance policies.
- Special tourist rescue coordination unit at Tribhuvan International Airport with dedicated tollfree number to address emergency issues during the peak tourist seasons
- Every hospital and clinic should report to the Department of Tourism with all necessary details related to treatment they offer to tourists.
- Tourists planning to trek above 3,000 meters elevations should mandatorily have a tourist guide accompanying them.
The committee’s recommendations were based on a detailed study on similar cases of rescue operations in other parts of the world such as Switzerland, Scotland, Canada and France.
In total, the committee recommended action against five such companies without foreign exchange permits for claiming rescue charges from tourists, six hospitals for collecting heavy fees from tourists for treatment & claims against their insurance policies, and many others involving in tax evasion.
Overall, the committee investigated 36 trekking, travel and rescue agencies, 10 helicopter companies, 6 hospitals considering complaints by tourism entrepreneurs.