The elaborate and ongoing drama surrounding travel insurance fraud in Nepal continues to unfold. Last summer it was revealed that numerous trekking companies, helicopter operators, and hospitals were involved in a scam involving fake rescue operations that ran up exorbitant bills for unnecessary helicopter flight and medical attention. The costs for those “rescues” averaged around $40,000 each, with the bill being passed on to travel insurance companies, while the individuals involved in the scam split the cash. This has led to a showdown between the insurance companies and the Nepali government, which has vowed to shut down the practice but has not filed a single legal action against anyone involved in the scam. Now, the story takes a new turn as a well-known television producer shares his own experience in dealing with these fraudsters.
Anthony Gordon, the executive producer of the Travel Channel’s Everest Air television show, told his story to the team at Traveller’s Assist, one of the companies battling the Nepali government over the ongoing insurance scam. Gordon’s experience was then shared on the TA website, giving readers a bit more insight into how things operate in Nepal. The revelations are eye opening, even for those of us who have been to Nepal and seen some of this first hand.
In article Gordon says he was spurred to come forward after Traveller’s Assist started naming names, sharing the companies and individuals who were at the center of the years-long fake helicopter rescue scam. While working in Nepal to film Everest Air, Gordon ran into all kinds of challenges, not the least of which were helicopter rescue operators who charged double the regular rate simply because they knew he was working with a television network. Worse yet, even though the flights were paid for, the operator also billed the insurance company, collecting on the rescue twice.
In the article Gordon says, “Myself and the Producer of Everest Air personally sat in front of Mr. Ram Nepal and asked him why he was double-billing for helicopters. He explained to us that if we did not approve those invoices, he would leave the travellers where they are to die. It was that direct.”
It wasn’t just the helicopter operators that were fond of double billing either. Seven Summit Treks, which is a prominent mountaineering company in Nepal, was also payed by the production company to provide logistical support. Later, Gordon learned that Mingma Sherpa and Tashi Lakpa Sherpa were also double-billing the insurance companies for rescue operations, but when confronted about it they simply told him that if they didn’t go along with the scam than their company would be shut down. That indicates that individuals working behind the scenes are pulling some pretty big strings to keep this situation going.
The entire story is very compelling and well worth a read. Near the end, Gordon shares even more of his experience saying, “I have seen countless travellers essentially held to ransom with their life hanging in the balance. I have also witnessed multiple patients on one helicopter and then multiple invoices being sent to insurers for the full amount. The rescue racket in Nepal is a licence to print money.”
As we’ve said before, be careful when traveling in Nepal, make sure your travel insurance covers you there, and watch out for these scam artists. The country is one of the most beautiful and fulfilling places in the world to visit, but there is corruption and deceit just about everywhere.
Read this entire story here.
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