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Nepal cash law nets VIP

New Delhi/Kohima, June 30: Nagaland home minister Imkong L. Imchen was detained at Kathmandu airport this morning for carrying Rs 9 lakh in denominations of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500, which are banned in Nepal.

Nepal allows use of Indian currency up to the denomination of Rs 100 only. Imchen claimed he was not aware of the rule.

The minister, returning with his wife and children after a wedding in Nepal, was about to board a Jet Airways flight to New Delhi when the airport authorities found the cash in his suitcase and detained him for questioning. Soon after, Nagaland chief secretary Lalthara got in touch with Union home secretary G.K. Pillai and sought the help of the Indian embassy.

Following Delhi’s intervention, Imchen, a leader of the ruling Nagaland People’s Front, was released. He arrived in Delhi by an evening flight.

But Imchen said he was “not necessarily” detained. “I only had Rs 2 lakh, one lakh in Rs 500 notes and another in Rs 1,000 notes which they kept with them. They said they may send it back or may not return the money, which is fine. I have to respect the law of the land,” he told The Telegraph after arriving in Delhi.

A source, however, said the minister was under detention and had no alternative but to remain in Kathmandu for a couple of hours.

A spokesperson for the chief minister’s office said Imchen was released immediately after the intervention of the Indian government, adding that the Nepali authorities were convinced about Imchen’s ignorance of the rule.

But the Union home ministry has taken the incident seriously. “How could he be carrying so much money? And why cash?” asked a ministry official. Imchen argued he had the habit of “roaming like a common man and not a minister”.

The Nagaland Congress urged the Centre to dismiss the home minister.

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