Nepal pilot with royal links held for rhino poaching
Mar 14, 2007 - 1:53:57 PM

Kathmandu, March 14 - A former Nepali pilot with links to Nepal's royalty has been arrested for running a rhino poaching network along with a Nepal Army soldier.

Ramesh Chandra Pokhrel, 76, a former pilot with Nepal's national carrier Nepal Airlines, reportedly confessed to killing eight one-horned rhinos, a rare and endangered species, starting in 1996.

He had been arrested from the capital last month after a raid at his residence unearthed a rhino horn in his car and a rifle.

At a sensational press meet organised Tuesday in southern Nepal's Chitwan district, the home of the endangered rhino, Pokhrel reportedly admitted he had hired several hunters to kill rhinos.

The bullets were regularly supplied by an army man, Madhav Kumar Budathoki, who was working at the army's military academy in Amlekhganj, near the Indian border.

Nine people were nabbed from different places in Nepal as part of the same network. One of them, Hari Bahadur Bishwakarma, reportedly said he had been paid Nepali Rs.50,000 for the first kill but the money went up and the last dead rhino fetched him over Rs.300,000.

Pokhrel's reported confession created a sensation in Nepal with the local media immediately reporting his links to the royal palace.

According to private radio station Himalayan Broadcasting Corporation, Pokhrel is the son of Shanta Pokhrel, a staunch royalist who supported the coup by King Gyanendra's father, the late king Mahendra.

In 1960, Mahendra dismissed the elected government of the then prime minister B.P. Koirala, jailed the premier and top politicians and imposed the draconian panchayat system of governance in which political parties were banned.

Shanta Pokhrel, one of the first to welcome the royal move, was also an official royal adviser.

She was a member of the Raj Parishad, Nepal's Privy Council that is supposed to be a merely constitutional body but has frequently in the past supported royal coups.

The Raj Parishad was scrapped last year after King Gyanendra's direct reign ended due to a public revolt.

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