Nepal cracks down on lucrative helicopter rescue scams


Nepal has ordered a review of the way summit helicopter rescues are conducted after uncovering a multimillion-dollar scam in which climbers were pressured, sometimes by having their food spiked, to take costly flights down mountains.

Insurance industry figures said the scam, which had been operating for more than five years, had caused at least one unnecessary death and involved dozens of helicopter companies, tour operators, hotels and hospitals. Thousands of climbers had been forced to abandon their ascents at the first sign of illness and take expensive helicopter rides to private hospitals, according to an investigation by the Nepalese government.

Their bills were allegedly charged to insurance companies, with kickbacks given to the trekking guides, hotels and sometimes the climbers themselves. One investigation on behalf of insurers estimated there had been more than 1,600 helicopter rescues so far this year, of which about 35% had been fraudulent, costing the companies more than $4m (£3.1m). Several international insurers warned that they would pull out of Nepal by 1 September if the government did not act.(theguardian)…[+]