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Heli rescue fraud tarnishes Nepal’s image


Widespread international coverage of an insurance scam in Nepal that involves some helicopter companies, private hospitals and trekking agencies has hurt the country’s image abroad, and impacted an industry just recovering from the 2015 earthquake.

Nepal’s government, in responding to an AFP exposé of malpractice earlier this year, may have made things worse with a slapdash report that accuses everyone of being in on the scam.

There is evidence that some trek organisers, hospitals and helicopter companies in Nepal connived to create fake medevacs of trekkers, or sometimes deliberately made hikers sick, so that they could collect and share insurance compensation. 

Insurance watchdog Traveller Assist claimed its own investigations showed that 35% of the 1,600 helicopter rescues in Nepal this year were fraudulent, costing up to $4 million. The company said it had intercepted and stopped 160 of the claims. The cost was serious enough for some international travel insurers to give the Nepal government till September to do something about it. 

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