Nabbed Nepali says he extorted ex-king’s daughter ‘with respect’

Kathmandu, Nov 19 ( A man, who was arrested by Nepal Police for trying to extract money from deposed king Gyanendra Shah’s daughter Prerana Singh, is trying to mitigate his action saying he had treated the former princess with “respect” throughout the extortion attempt.

Rajesh Hamal created a sensation in the former Himalayan kingdom after police disclosed he had sent three text messages to the personal cellphone of the former princess, asking her to pay NRS 10 million or face the killing of her husband and son.

Hamal, in his 30s, told police he needed the money to fund his wedding, which was scheduled for Jan 7.

According to his deposition before police, he used to trade in yarshagumba, a fungus that grows in the high mountains of northern Nepal and is in great demand due to the belief it has aphrodisiac and other medicinal qualities.

A sudden loss in business left him broke and unable to organise his wedding, Hamal said.

To raise money for the feast, he conceived the idea of extracting money from the former princess as he had her personal cell number, thanks to his fiancee Pratikshya Shah, who had been working as the ex-princess’ personal secretary.

The first SMS was sent Nov 10.

It was as polite as possible, addressing the ex-princess as “sarkar”, a deferential form of address for the royal family that however has been discarded since Nepal elected to become a republic last year.

Beginning with a respectful “Namaste”, the message said: “You should support our party. Give NRS 10 million to your secretary and send her to Godavari (a place outside Kathmandu). Else your husband Raj Bahadur Singh and son may be killed.”

The message created a stir in the former royal household that till last year used to be feared and revered by the nation.

The former princess has been one of the most low-key and non-controversial members of the former palace, leading a low-profile life as a wife and mother of a son.

Despite the former royals’ aversion to their affairs becoming public, her husband decided to go to police since they were not sure whether it was a hoax or a genuine extortion call by an armed underground organisation.

Two days later, the impatient Hamal sent a second message.

“Your Highness”, it said, “Didn’t you get my message? Are you ignoring it? Don’t you love your husband and son?”

By that time, police had been able to trace the owner of the SIM card that was used to send the messages.

Then came the third message that led the cops to Nepalgunj town on the India-Nepal border.

“You didn’t give a damn for the message,” it said. “You don’t love your husband or son. The outcome of this is not going to be good.”

However, the man they hunted up – Dipak Hamal – said he had given the SIM card to his uncle for the latter’s use and knew nothing about the threats.

The posse then made him make a call to the uncle, Rajesh Hamal, who was living in a guesthouse in Kathmandu.

The policemen pretended to be businessmen interested in buying yarshagumba and the unsuspecting Hamal agreed to meet them in front of a cinema in the capital.

When he turned up there with his fiancee, police arrested both Tuesday and handed over the couple to the crime investigation department.

According to Deputy Superintendent Pradyumna Karki, they will be charged with attempted abduction and trafficking.

Though the fiancee claimed she was not aware of Hamal’s malafide intentions, she too is being charged with the same offences.

To add insult to the injury, Pratiksya Shah is said to be related to the former princess’ husband, who hired her about one and a half year ago.