September 3, 2010
If you are planning a trip to Nepal with visions of being embraced by a hippy Himalayan paradise, think again. You may get away with scoring illegal drugs and, then again, you may not. In any case, an American was arrested this week and it should serve as a reminder to would-be purple-hazers that there are some hard facts to be taken into consideration.
U.S. Citizen Arrested In Nepal Over Hashish Possession
September 1, 2010 Anil Giri - AHN News Correspondent
Nepalese police have arrested a California man at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport on suspicion of possessing six kilograms of hashish, an official said Wednesday.
According to Deputy Superintendent of Nepal Police Dibash Raj Udash of the government's Narcotic Drug Control Law Enforcement Unit, Harish Calhoh was arrested while trying to catch a Etihad Airlines flight to Copenhagen via Abu Dhabi. The drugs were allegedly concealed in a false bottom of his luggage.
Value of the hashish was estimated at more than $150,000.
Calhoh is likely to remain in police custody for at least three months pending formal charges.
Police suspect Calhoh might be a member of an international drug smuggling racket. They said he arrived in Nepal from Bangkok on a tourist visa a few days ago. He has been handed over to the Narcotic Drugs Control Law Enforcement Unit for further investigation.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, more than 150 kilograms of heroin, more than 4,000 kilograms of hashish and around 28,000 kilograms of cannabis have been smuggled out of the country over the first five months of 2010. In the initial five months of 2010, 625 persons were arrested for possessing narcotics; 36 were foreign nationals.
Obviously, most American drug users in Nepal score drugs for their personal use, not for smuggling out of the country. But the danger of arrest is still a serious offense and carries a heavy penalty. Possession of small amounts of marijuana can lead to a prison sentence in excess of 5 years, usually after a lengthy and expensive legal process. Tourists caught in possession of even small quantities can be and have been convicted and imprisoned.
Nepal may not be as important a hub for drug traffickers as Indonesia, Thailand, India, Pakistan or Burma, but it is an up-and-coming conduit. Anti-narcotics agents say Nepal is still primarily a channel for drug flow out of India, Pakistan and Burma to Southeast Asia and Nepali security forces takes this problem very seriously indeed.
Here’s what the U.S. State Department has to say about Americans facing criminal drug charges in Nepal:
While you are traveling in another country, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. …Persons violating Nepalese laws, even unknowingly, may be arrested, imprisoned, or expelled. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Nepal are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. … While you are overseas, U.S. laws don’t apply. If you do something illegal in your host country, your U.S. passport won’t help.