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16 February 2015

Nepal’s top wildlife criminal nabbed in Malaysia

Praja was subject of global INTERPOL environmental fugitive operation


LYON, France – Nepal’s most wanted wildlife criminal and the subject of an INTERPOL Red Notice, has been arrested in Malaysia following close international collaboration via INTERPOL channels.

Rajkumar Praja, the ringleader of a rhino poaching network in Nepal, is wanted to serve a 15-year sentence for rhino poaching and trading internationally in rhino horns. Nepali authorities requested a Red Notice, or international wanted persons alert, for the 31-year-old after he fled the country.

In 2013, Nepal Police, with the support of the Nepalese Army and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, arrested a network of more than a dozen poachers in suspected of killing some 19 rhinos in the Chitwan National Park, however Praja managed to escape.

Information exchanged between the INTERPOL National Central Bureaus in Nepal and Malaysia on the case and Praja’s possible whereabouts eventually resulted in his arrest by the Royal Malaysian Police in January 2015, where he was found in possession of a fraudulent passport issued under a false name. He has since been returned to Nepal.

“What we have achieved with the arrest of Rajkumar Praja is a testament to how law enforcement agencies can utilize INTERPOL resources to share information and coordinate beyond national boundaries to combat transnational organized crime,” said DIGP Hemant Malla Thakuri, Director of the Nepal Police Central Investigation Bureau.

“This arrest sends a strong message to criminals hiding in a foreign country that no matter where they are, they are not safe and will be caught one day,” he concluded.

Praja was a target of INTERPOL’s Operation Infra Terra in 2014. As INTERPOL’s first global fugitive operation focused on criminals wanted for environmental crimes, Infra Terra targeted 139 fugitives wanted by 36 member countries for illegal fishing, wildlife trafficking, illegal trade and disposal of waste, illegal logging and trading in illicit ivory and more.

Other high-profile targets of Operation Infra Terra who have been arrested as a result of the global operation include suspected illegal ivory trader Ben Simasiku, and Feisal Mohamed Ali, the alleged leader of an ivory smuggling ring.
 
INTERPOL’s activities to investigate and disrupt wildlife crime networks operating in Asia come under its Project Predator. The project aims to support and enhance the governance and law enforcement capacity for the conservation of Asian big cats and is primarily funded by the US Agency for International Development.