Kathmandu, June 7: An Indian photojournalist, Durlabh Roy Chaudhary of Kolkata, is in Jhapa jail for the past seven months on the charge of carrying fake currency.

According to Nepal's state-owned news agency, RSS (Rastriya Samachar Samiti), Chaudhary, 24, was arrested from Chandragadhi airport on November 18, 2021, when he was visiting Nepal from Kolkata via Kakadvitta checkpoint.  Pulitzer Prize Award 2022: Sanna Irshad Mattoo, Kashmiri Freelance Photojournalist, Wins Award in Feature Photography Category

A spokesperson at the District Police Office, Jhapa, Basanta Pathak, said that police seized 226 pieces of photocopy of $100 bills from Chaudhary during search while he was flying to Kathmandu from Chandragadhi airport.

The police then filed a case in the District Court, Jhapa. Later, a bench of Justice Shankar Bahadur Rai remanded Chaudhary to custody stating that "there are bases to believe that the defendant is guilty."

He said that Jhapa District Court has already issued an order to keep Chaudhary in custody for investigation on fake currency charge.

Chairperson of the National Forum of Photo Journalists, Pradeep Raj Onta said, initiatives are being taken for his release. The Indian photo journalist is innocent. Claiming Chaudhary is not a fake notes smuggler, Onta requested to release Chaudhary by finalizing the case soon as he had carried fake currency only for video shooting.

Rahul Barua, secretary of South Asia Foundation, also recently visited Jhapa district and inquired about the case of Chaudhary and committed to support all required legal assistance to him. Barua told IANS that his organisation will provide legal, financial, and administrative support to him.

Barua also visited Jhapa recently and met Chaudhary in jail.

The Indian Embassy in Kathmandu has also been providing legal counsel to Chaudhary as well.

Another Nepali tourism entrepreneur, Suman Pandey also announced to provide financial support to Chaudhary, saying, "he was instrumental in promoting Nepal tourism and other attractions through his videos and vlogs and we must encourage him. So, I decided to support him."

Onta shared that Chaudhary works as a freelance photographer for different media organisations including National Geography, World Street Photobook, and Times of India as well as running his own YouTube channel 'Sniper Monk Travels'.

According to Ratopati, a popular news site in Nepal, Chaudhary in his statement has maintained that he was carrying counterfeit dollars for his documentary named 'Money is nothing'. Besides, Chaudhary also claimed that he himself showed those dollars to the security guard who later called the police. "It was not discovered by the police during a security screening," he said.

According to Chaudhary, he then told police that he had brought the counterfeit dollars to use in his documentary. "However, the police recorded the wrong statement and made him sign it forcibly making him believe that they will release him in a while."

According to his mother Trapti Roy Chaudhary, the website wrote that Chaudhary, who has difficulties understanding Hindi, has been made to sign his statement recorded in Nepali. He has claimed that the statement is wrong and doesn't match with the one he had recorded.

Later in the court, he maintained that he came to know about the statement recently. "I have not committed any crime that is being reported by the police. Back in my country, we throw counterfeit notes in the air during a marriage ceremony and I was about to do the same in Pokhara and shoot a YouTube video. I have a YouTube channel named SNIPER MONK TRAVELS.

That was the only reason to carry counterfeit dollar notes with me. It was me who showed those counterfeit notes to the security personnel who called the police and arrested me. It was not my intention to use it in Nepal. Besides, those notes were printed in photocopy papers and it is easy for anyone to recognize that it is a counterfeit one," the news report published in Ratopati said.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Jun 07, 2022 05:13 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website latestly.com).