Why is a 24 years Indian photographer in police custody in Jhapa for the past seven months? | Ratopati

KATHMANDU, May 31: Durlav Roy Chaudhary, 24, originally from Hawara, Kolkata of India is currently in police custody in Jhapa, Nepal since the past seven months. 

Durlav, who has been working as a photographer for National Geography, Practical Photography, Wall Street Photobook and Times of India including various other media, was remanded to custody for a money laundering case by the District Court of Jhapa.

His case has failed to move forward as his witness has refused to come to Nepal so far. Meanwhile, his mother is busy these days traveling back and forth to Nepal and India trying to prove her son’s innocence.

Durlav was arrested last year after the police confisticated 226 sets of ‘papers’ looking alike US dollar bill while he was traveling from Bhadrapur Airport to Kathmandu, according to the police report. The police then filed a case in the District Court, Jhapa. Later, a bench of Justice Shankar Bahadur Rai remanded Durlav to custody stating that ‘there are bases to believe that the defendant is guilty’. 

Why did Durlav travel to Nepal?

Durval had a passion for photography and was looking forward to get higher education in the same field after he graduated from high school. In 2015, Durval’s father died due to cancer which compelled him to begin professional photography as there was no other person in the family to earn a living. He then began working as a photographer for National Geography, Practical Photography, Wall Street Photobook and Times of India including various other media. 

Later, Durlav also began creating short movies, documentaries and vlogs. He then recently opened a YouTube channel named Sniper Monk Travels and began creating travel blogs as well. Durlav was fascinated by Nepal’s natural beauty and decided to travel to Nepal to shoot travel vlogs. As the direct flight from Delhi and Mumbai was costly for him, Durlav decided to take a flight from Jhapa to Kathmandu.

Durlav was carrying counterfeit dollars for his documentary named ‘Money is nothing’!

Durlav in his statement has maintained that he was carrying counterfeit dollars for his documentary named ‘Money is nothing’. Besides, Durlav also claimed that he himself showed those dollars to the security guard who later called the police. “It was not discovered by the police during a security screening”.  

According to Durlav, he then told police that he had brought the counterfeit dollars to use in his documentary. “However, the police recorded the wrong statement and made him sign it forcefully making him believe that they will release him in a while.”

Read the statement recorded by police 

‘ Around one month ago from the day I got arrested, I downloaded images of USD $100 reading ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS, THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, LE00000099D and printed 226 similar notes from a printing press in Kolkata paying Indian Rs 200 which I was about to carry to Kathmandu and Pokhara and booked a ticket from India on 18 November 2021 at around 17:20 PM of FLIGHT NO. U4-958 to fly from Jhapa to Kathmandu and arrive at Bhadrapur Airport via Kakarbhitta border point. The police then discovered 226 counterfeit dollar notes with me during a security screening that I had hidden in my bag. It was my fault to carry counterfeit dollar notes with me with the intention of importing and exporting the currency.’

Was Durlav forced to sign the statement?

Durlav doesn’t understand Hindi properly, being an Indian national, according to his mother Trapti Roy Chaudhary. Durlav, who has difficulties understanding Hindi, has been made to sign his statement recorded in Nepali. Durlav has claimed that the statement is wrong and doesn’t match with one he had recorded. 

Later in the court, Durlav maintained that he came to know about the statement recently.

Read Durlav’s statement recorded in court

I have not committed any crimes that are reported by the police. Back in my country, we throw counterfeit notes in the air during a marriage ceremony and I was about to do the same in Pokhara and shoot a Youtube video. I have a Youtube channel named SNIPER MONK TRAVELS. That was the only reason to carry counterfeit dollar notes with me. It was me who showed those counterfeit notes to the security personnel who called the police and arrested me. It was not my intention to use it in Nepal. Besides, those notes were printed in photocopy papers and it is easy for anyone to recognize that it is a counterfeit one.”

Here is what the lab report says

Police had sent those dollar notes confiscated from Durlav to Kathmandu for testing. The report maintains that those notes are smoother than the real one, doesn’t match the actual quality, all notes had the same number, 110 were shorter and 116 were longer than the real dollar bills. Besides, the bills were printed in papers usually used to print pictures and can easily be recognized as a fake currency.

Durlav’s camera was not included in the list of materials  confiscated by the police

At the time when Durlav was arrested by the police, he had a camera (Nikon D810), three camera lenses (Tamron 7200, Nikon 50mm and Samyang 14mm along with a tripod. However, the police did not include these materials in the list of things confiscated from him just to prove that he had not traveled to Nepal to shoot documentaries and travel vlogs.

While asked about the issue to one of the junior police officers who had arrested Durlav, the officer said that he had no idea why the police did not include cameras in the list of things seized from Durlav.

Witness demanded INR 600,000

Durlav Roy Chaudhary had two Indian men as his witnesses. Of those two witnesses, Kauntiya Sharma, 38, of Kolkata demanded INR 600,000, according to Durlav’s mother.

Likewise, another witness, Amartu Sigdar, fears that the police might arrest him as well and has refused to travel to Nepal. Due to this, Durlav’s case is pending in the court.

Is it legal to carry photocopies of dollar bills?

It is illegal to carry photocopies of any currency with you in Nepal, as per the law. However, it can be photocopied (which should not match with the real currency in terms of shape and color) after taking permission from concerned authorities. 

Durlav has however not taken any sort of permission from the concerned authorities which led him to custody and court.


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