The Drug Trail Ends in Kathmandu

I first went to Nepal in 1970 it was the end of the now famous Hippie Trail that started overland from either Amsterdam or London. Buses full of Hippies would disembark at the end of New Road and to this day this street is called Freak Street. Nepal was Hippie nirvana being that marijuana and hashish were legal and sold openly in Government licensed shops! At the time there were no opium dens in Kathmandu nor is opium grown or heroin produced in Nepal! There was no such thing as a Nepalese junkie. Cannabis was only illegal to export and Hippies caught at the airport were fined $100 USD and deported on the next flight out of Kathmandu.

The King Mahendra died in 1972 and his son Birendra ascended to the throne and I remember the most solemn ragas that mourned the old King’s passing on Radio Nepal. Who can forget the huge procession to Pashupatinath Temple where the King was cremated, or the bizarre ritual of a Brahman priest taking over the bad karma of the King and even getting a share of his earthly possessions and then being banished from the Kingdom on a Royal elephant. I left for India in 1973 just before Cannabis prohibition in Nepal. Richard Nixon and his recently formed DEA paid the new king 50-70 million dollars to outlaw pot–his in a Hindu country where everyone must take cannabis once a year on Lord Shiva’s birthday. Hippies were deported to India. It was a sad day on Freak Street.

I returned to Nepal in 1981 and to my amazement the country now had a heroin problem. Hashish was 20-30 times more expensive than in 1970 and a very cheap and low grade of smokable heroin was now making the rounds. The Nepalese, not really knowing the difference between brown sugar heroin and marijuana, were easily seduced by smack. Not only that but Double UO Globe Brand heroin was available for export the finest Golden Triangle heroin made. Heroin was now being imported from Burma and brought overland from East Nepal on Army and Police trucks by the Royal Family. The Royals control every aspect of the black market in Nepal. What was once Hippie Nirvana was now a major heroin hub.

Sometime in 1983 my Nepali partner and I were invited to lunch at one of the Ministers’ homes. There over lunch and drinks he explained that for the first time in the history of Nepal the Royal Nepalese soccer team was going to compete at the Olympics in Los Angeles the next summer. He said was working with Prince Gyanendra who was in charge of the Olympic committee. Due to my long history in Nepal they felt I could handle the merchandise they were sending along with the team. I took it for granted that they were talking about 150 kilos of hashish. He then spoke to my associate in Nepalese and then talked directly to me that their intentions were to send 150 kilos of heroin to LA. My first thought was to look over at my Nepali associate and tell him that whatever he promised these people to forget it. I explained to the Minister it was impossible and managed to squirm my way out of there.

When I got back home my old pal Patrick came by and I told him what had happened. Patrick says that if I would have gone along with the Minister’s proposal, I would have ended up in prison or dead. I was being set up as a fall guy for the Royal Family. The Black Prince, as he was known around Kathmandu, had once been stopped with a bunch of his cronies trying to lift the kneeling Malla King Statue in Patan (a national treasure) with a crane! The policeman who stopped this theft was “disappeared”, but the statue stayed a top its pillar, and the Black Prince was sent packing to Europe.

A bitter rivalry existed between King Birendra and his brother Gyanendra that went back to the 1950s when King Mahendra and the Crown Prince fled to India fearing an assassination attempt and left Gyanendra in Kathmandu as the defacto king. Upon returning to Nepal, it went back to the status quo. Gyanendra has always felt he would have made a better King than his drunkard brother.

During the 1980s and the introduction of brown sugar heroin into Nepal one of the casualties was the Crown Prince, who was rumored to having been sent to rehab in Switzerland. In 1984 the Nepalese Soccer team was detained at LAX carrying that 150 kilos of pure heroin. It was quick news as it disappeared instantly from the media and was never talked about since. A year later bombs went off in the lobby of the Annapurna Hotel (Royal Family owned) at the palace gates as well as other government buildings, apparently in retaliation for the mess in LA.

In 1986 Henry Kissinger and a group of narcotics agents come to Kathmandu for a SAARC conference. The agents bought 2 kilos of pure heroin on the back streets of Asan Tol market with traveler checks! These two kilos they threw down on the desk of Inspector General of Police D. B. Lama and threaten to cut off all aid to Nepal. The agents produced a list of all the people who were involved in the Cannabis trade who still lived in Nepal. Soon wany Westerners with private vehicles or extended Visas were rousted. Overnight the jails swelled with Westerners and Nepalese most of whom were not involved in the heroin trade. Nepalese and Westerners were tortured into confessions. D.B. Lama was one of the front men for the Royal Family heroin trade, sort of a sticky wicket, but I escaped the inquisition to Bangkok and did not return to Nepal until 1988. The inquisition was still going on so I left for good. D. B. Lama the Inspector General of Police had been arrested. They found the pipes in his house were pure gold painted over gray to resemble pipe and boxes of foreign currency. I guess they traced old Henry the K’s traveler checks back to the Inspector General of Police himself and the Royals were forced to sacrifice D. B. Lama.

Student demonstrations for democracy, the Monarchy’s medieval repressive tactics and the attention it got around the world finally brought 30 years of absolute rule to an end and in 1990 King Birendra reinstated multi-party democracy in Nepal. A treaty was signed with Pakistan and flights now come in from Karachi. Military ties were initiated and with that Afghan heroin is now available by the ton in Kathmandu. Nepal has become a major player on the global heroin trade.

Democracy brought a succession of governments that throughout the 1990’s were marked by one being more corrupt than the last. In 1996 the Maoists took to the field and it’s been a bloodbath ever since with nearly 12,000 killed and disappeared as of this writing.

King Birendra never unleashed the Royal Nepalese Army against the Maoist’s and the gains they made led to the Royal massacre of June 1, 2001. Everyone in the way of the Black Prince becoming king was killed. Most media today refer to it as the shoot out at the palace! It was a coup d’ etat engineered by the Prince and the Royal Army with the blessings of outside interests. I was told that the Crown Prince was executed at the Balaju army barracks where he had run to escape the assassinations.

Very few Nepalese believe the official account and the Crown Prince was an easy patsy due to his long time heroin addiction and alcohol problems. There was no way that the Black Prince would allow the junkie Crown Prince to ascend to the throne if his brother should die suddenly, and the King had health problems due to his alcohol abuse. The Military felt the same way and the Black Prince is now the King of Nepal and the iron rule of his father has returned.

The events of September 11th altered the equation as Nepal joined the war on terror and allowed B-52’s to fly over the nation on their bombing runs into Afghanistan. The King declareed the Maoist movement terrorists and now receives unprecedented support from the US, UK, and India. American and British Special Forces train the Royal army. The King hired 400 private mercenaries, who now lead the Royal Army into battle. What has the Black King promised the Bush Administration for US support?

The Nepalese Royal Family has a long history of involvement with the CIA. Through out the 1960s and 1970s the CIA maintained a secret base at Lo Mustang on the Tibetan plateau bordering China. This was the jumping off point for CIA-trained Tibetan Khampa guerillas fighting the Chinese. Today they are building a road from the Indian border to Lo Mothang and it’s quite obvious that once again it will be used as a forward base.

At this point the Maoist control 85 percent of the countryside and five districts outright in Western Nepal. Peasant women, tired of being sold to brothels in India, comprise 40 percent of the arms-carrying cadre. A free election would bring Socialism to Nepal and if the people could they would vote the King to be gone! The Maoist movement is a Nationalist movement of people who are awakening from 250 years of feudalism! The one road from the Indian Border town of Birgunj to Kathmandu is easily shut down by strikes called by Maoist’s! The Royal Army is reduce to guarding Kathmandu and other major border towns and protecting the convoys of supplies that keep Kathmandu alive.

On February the 1, 2005, the Black King dismissed the government and declares a state of emergency. He then suspended telephone, internet, and air links, effectively cutting off Nepal from the rest of the world. The Black King assumeed total power and suspended constitutional freedoms of press, speech, and expression, constitutional protection against news censorship and preventative detention! Hundreds were jailed, leaders of all major political parties were put under armed house arrest. Students protesting the King in Pokhara were fired upon from helicopters and 20 were wounded. The iron fist rule of his father has returned.

Once Time magazine came out with a report critical of King Mahendra. When the magazine arrived at the news stand in Kathmandu that page had been completely blacked out. Hitler, Stalin, Saddam had absolute power and now the Black King, Every since the massacre at the palace they have been trying to clean Gyanendra’s image internationally by blaming the heroin trade on his younger brother who was also killed at the palace. The facts are that Gyanendra and his Uncle, who owned the Annapurna hotel, have been heavily involved in the heroin trade going all the way back to the 1960s. Nepal today is 8 times poorer than in 1970.

How can that be with all the foreign aid, the carpet industry, textile industry, tourist industry? Think Marcos, for years the Royal family has siphoned off from every dollar coming into Nepal. Nepal is a classic example of failed American foreign policy and how we create terrorism. Today we are supporting a heroin dealing despot king and again killing people who can’t afford shoes in the mountains and jungles of Nepal.

Joe Pietri author The King of Nepal. He can be reached at: