News broke in July, 2018 that Sherpa owned and operated guide company, Seven Summits Treks (SST), had forged Everest climbing permits for two clients cheating the Government out of $22,000 in royalty fees. SST has been fined double the permit fees and the clients fined and sentenced to jail time.
We seven summit treks pay around more than 2 million dollars royalty fee every year to the government . Why would we make fake permit for $20000 . Look we paid money for all the 14 members but its sad to say but the truth is one of our Staff made fake permits so that he could earn the money we pay for the 2 climber . The truth cant be hidden we will fully support the investigation and yes I’m a part of this team and my trust was broken as well. So hope the truth is revealed soon . We already found the one who was involved in this but as we know he cant do this alone so we assume he got some help from the government employee and the government is trying to figure it out who it is but I think no one is involved in this case
Seven summit treks,
First Asian to climb 14th8000 m mountains,
According to Nepal’s Department of Tourism (DoT), two clients, Australian Ian James Hibbert, 67, and Chinese Xu Zhong Zhou, 62, were not listed as members of the 14 Peak Experience Everest 2018 spring Everest expedition. 14 Peak is a sub company of SST. The fraud was found when the MoT was reviewing permit information to determine if the garbage deposit should be returned.
It was reported that Xu Zhong summited but Hibbert stopped at Camp 2. Both were said to be experienced climbers with Hibbert having climbed over 150 peaks. Xu Zhong was noted as a ‘professional mountaineer’ in China who began mountaineering in his early 20s.
Fines and Jail
It seems an apology was not enough for the Ministry of Tourism as they now have ruled the infraction was serious and they want to send a message to all operators and climbers that not having a permit is illegal will be dealt with. DoT’s Director General Dandu Raj Ghimire made the announcement:
The company has been imposed a fine double the royalty. Each foreign climber has to pay US$11,000 to obtain Everest climbing permit in the spring season. Additionally, the DoT will also collect US$441 more from the agency for indulging in a fraudulent act. Also, per the new criminal and civil codes, the forgers will get seven years in jail and a fine of US$618. Not only the forgers, persons deliberately using the documents shall also be liable to the same penalty. As per the provisions, two climbers can also claim compensation if they thought they were duped by the agency.
In speaking with other sources, I told that SST will pay the $44,000 fine and move on. As to prison time it is a bit ambitious as this says the forgers AND people using the documents i.e. the climbers are subject to jail time. As for the members, a strange suggestion has come forth that an employee of SST will serve time on their behalf as part of a plea deal. I cannot confirm this will happen or is even common. There does seem to be an out for the clients in blaming ignorance that the permit was forged.
Not the First Time
But not all rules and fines are enforced. In 2017, South African Ryan Sean Davy snuck to Everest without a permit but was caught. He was deported with no fine or jail time. As has been discussed for years, the Nepal Liaison Officers, who cost $5,000 for each expedition, rarely do their job or even meet the expedition team they are assigned to and paid by.
In any event, I’m glad to see Nepal enforcing their rules, but remember this is about lost revenue, not addressing crowds, inexperienced climbers, guides, or safety or keeping the mountain clean. I also applaud SST for admitting the failing and making sure it doesn’t happen again. Lets assume good intentions on all sides.
Memories are Everything
note: the original image used for this story was intended to be representative of a team receiving permits, not The team mentioned in this story. It has been removed.