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Last Updated: Friday, 14 May, 2004, 14:32 GMT 15:32 UK
Nepal arrests 'skull-smugglers'
By Charles Haviland
BBC, Kathmandu

Nepalese Buddha
Buddhism in Nepal uses skulls in some of its traditions
Police in Nepal have arrested two men carrying 250 human skulls.

They were detained near Birgunj, a town near the border with India, apparently trying to smuggle the skulls into Nepal in bags.

Under questioning, the men said they had bought them at a price of nearly $1.50 each in the neighbouring Indian state of Bihar.

They were planning to sell them for about three times that price in the town of Bouddha outside Kathmandu.

This is a major centre of Tibetan Buddhism, a religion which does use skulls in some of its traditions.

Charges likely

According to the would-be smugglers, however, the skulls might be embellished with gold or silver there and then exported on out of the country.

The police source said that although he had seen one or two cases of skull smuggling before, there had been nothing on this scale.

He added that the skulls appeared to have been dug out of the ground and many had been cut in two.

Nepal has no laws against the trafficking of skulls, but the men are likely to be charged under a public nuisance act.

Police in Kathmandu said they too had come across isolated incidents like this, but the traffic had tended to be going the other way out of Nepal.

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