A plea and a puzzle: Search for truth's many twists
An email from a Nepalese man concerned about the fate of his daughter arrested at a duty free shop set 'Spectrum' reporters out the trail, eventually meeting a distressed woman in prison unsure of whether anyone would come to her aid
The curious case of Nepalese woman Nirmala Oli began with an email to the Bangkok Post from a desperate father who alleged his daughter had been falsely accused of stealing a US$700 (20,500 baht) bottle of perfume from a duty free shop at Suvarnabhumi Airport.
ON THE SCENT: Nepalese woman Nirmala Oli is in jail in Bangkok after being accused of stealing a bottle of perfume from an airport duty free shop.
Ganesh Prasad Oli wrote in a letter entitled "Concerning kidnapping of my daughter from Thai airport" sent on April 26 that she had been arrested 10 days earlier when the manager of the shop with the help of police "took control of my daughter".
"She remained in captivity for 10 days," the letter, carrying an address and phone number, said.
"[The] Nepalese Embassy in Thailand and Thai immigration were not informed about the captivity for nine to 10 days."
Mr Oli cryptically refers to a phone call from an Umesh Sharma, now in Australia, who he says informed him "the abductors were demanding money for my daughter's release".
He demands Thai authorities take action against those involved and make sure his daughter, who he says suffers from depression, is kept safe until her return home.
Attached to the email was a copy of a Nepalese passport for a woman named Nirmala Oli, aged 32, and a handwritten note entitled "Demand Letter".
The note says "they" had asked for 350,000 baht, 200,000 for the court and 150,000 baht for the police. Without specifying dates it says "then after" the amount increases to 450,000 baht, otherwise Ms Oli will be jailed for seven years.
Strangely, the note also gives names and telephone numbers for the alleged culprits from the duty free shop: the manager and her "Indian guy husband" who were demanding the bribe.
There is no signature or contact information on the demand letter.
The "story" of the patsy tourist detained at a duty free shop then scammed by police rung true enough because of similar cases in the past, but details, such as those contained in the demand letter, seemed to indicate something else was at play.
The Bangkok Post initially contacted the Immigration Department which denied the allegations and said the woman was no longer in the country.
Emails sent to the sender of the original email were not replied to, and the Nepalese telephone number supplied was unregistered.
The story seemed bogus until the Nepalese Embassy was contacted by Spectrum and they said one of their nationals, Nirmala Oli, was being held at the airport jail.
But even this information was incorrect. The woman had been transferred to Samut Prakan prison on April 17.
Spectrum visited the woman twice in the prison, both times being allowed 10 minutes with her in a noisy, crowded room.
During the first visit she cried most of the time and said no-one had been to visit her. She said an official from the Nepalese Embassy had spoken to her once on the phone.
" I want to get out from here as quick as possible," she said. "I do not know what will happen to me. Nobody tells me anything. How long will I have to stay in jail ... is it two years or more?"
She denied stealing the perfume, and told us to contact her boyfriend _ the man identified in the original letter as Umesh Sharma.
"He knows everything," Ms Oli repeated, although she said she was alone when she was arrested.
She said that police had confiscated her phone and laptop along with her passport.
Pol Lt Col Kaweerattana Bangkhomtham said Ms Oli was arrested for stealing the perfume after a guard at the duty free shop brought her to airport police. He added that they have CCTV footage as evidence.
Spectrum repeatedly tried to phone the number in Australia provided for Umesh Sharma but the calls went unanswered. Further attempts to contact the father in Nepal via email and telephone proved fruitless.
Spectrum also phoned the number of the woman allegedly demanding the bribe, who referred the matter to police.
On April 17, Ms Oli was taken by police to Samut Prakan provincial court, who requested she be held in custody while the provincial prosecutor decides whether to send the case to court.
Under Thai law, an accused person can be detained for a maximum of 48 days before the prosecutor decides whether to file a criminal suit against them. However, police must request that the detention period be extended every 12 days.
The prosecutor might decide not to file a case if it is deemed not substantial enough.
If the case proceeds and the defendant pleads guilty, the court immediately delivers a penalty. However, if she contests the case, she will need legal representation.
According to an official at Samut Prakan provincial court, the embassy, or anyone, can make a request to the court to bail her out. Typically, 150,000 baht in property or money is requested as surety.
In cases involving theft of duty free goods, it's widely believed that a payment equal to 10 times the value of the stolen goods will result in the charges being dropped.
When Spectrum visited Ms Oli in prison again last week her demeanour had improved, however, she revealed little about her background or occupation.
She said she wanted bail and asked the Bangkok Post to organise a lawyer for her. She expressed concern about a possible jail sentence and said police had demanded money from her but refused to say how much.
When asked how her boyfriend knew all the details of the case she refused to answer. "No-one in here understands me," she said.
After initially revealing little about Ms Oli's case the Nepalese Embassy on Thursday said they had sent the father's complaints to the Foreign Ministry for investigation.
Dornath Aryal, the Charge d' Affaires, said the embassy was also awaiting approval on a request to visit Ms Oli in prison.
Spectrum was referred to a Mr Khaki who is handling the case. He said the investigation was underway but he could not elaborate, adding that they were in close contact with the father. The embassy would not post bail for Ms Oli while the investigation was ongoing, he said.
The Foreign Ministry confirmed it had received the complaint and contacted police to inquire about the case.
Spectrum finally received an email reply from the man purporting to be Ms Oli's father late on Thursday.
In broken English he writes that he hadn't spoken with his daughter 'till now".
When asked who is being asked to pay the alleged bribe he says: "Till now they are demanding money to me".
DEMANDING THE TRUTH: Top and above, copies of Ms Oli’s passport and the ‘Demand Letter’ sent by Ganesh Prasad Oli to the ‘Bangkok Post’.
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- Writer: Post Reporters