Crime: Police in Gelephu will forward the US visa scam case involving a 23-year-old man,  a 33-year-old woman and 17 people to the Office of Attorney General (OAG).

A press release issued by the police yesterday states that police arrested the man and woman after learning that they two were recruiting and attempting to take a group of Bhutanese out of the country illegally.

Gelephu police arrested the man in August and the woman in September. The woman is on bail as of now.

The press release also states that the man and the woman met in New Delhi in March this year when the woman went to apply for a United States visa at the US embassy.

Police said the man, who claimed to be a UN public relations officer based in New Delhi had shown two white cars as his duty vehicles to the woman and helped her to fill the forms for the biometric process for the visa interview.

After the woman’s US visa got rejected, the two kept in constant contact through a social media app, WeChat, and the woman sought the man’s help to process US visas for her relatives and friends. “The man assured her that an invitation letter would be sent from the Woodstock Film Festival in New York scheduled this month,” the press release states.

The Bhutanese, the press release states, were to be sent as a part of Bhutanese cultural performers in the name of a drayang in Gelephu. The drayang belonged to the woman’s husband.

According to police, the woman then looked for 17 clients and created a WeChat group called ‘Film Festival’ to discuss issues and correspond with the clients.

The woman told the people that the man was her brother.

While the 17 people received a letter of invitation written to the US embassy in Delhi by co-founder and executive director of the Woodstock Film Festival in New York, the police investigation revealed that the invitation letter was forged using a photo-editing software.

Police also found out that the woman collected an initial deposit of Nu 30,000 from each clients as a non-refundable service charge for the invitation letter, documentation and visa interview fees.

It was learnt that while some people paid Nu 50,000 after receiving the invitation letter, a few did not.

“The total package charge for the trip was agreed at Nu 450,000 per person,” the police press release states.

By the time the two were arrested, the man collected Nu 950,000 and the woman collected Nu 148,500 from the clients.

Meanwhile, police also allege that the man had conned two women in Kolkata by promising them an invitation letter from the US and arrangements for visa interviews. He is alleged of charging the two women Nu 11,200 and Nu 30,000.

The man is also alleged of conning a couple in Thimphu of Nu 71,000 and a woman working in one of the financial institutions of Nu 125,000 by promising to arrange work visas and air tickets to New Zealand.

Police said that the man has a criminal record. Thimphu police arrested him twice for theft. He was convicted for one month and one year in both cases.

Tashi Dema