‘Left to sink or swim’ by British authorities in Nepal

Phil Oakland was stranded in Nepal for years when his business partner disappeared with his passport.
Phil Oakland was stranded in Nepal for years when his business partner disappeared with his passport.
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A Kirk Hallam man has given a fascinating account of his ordeal to get back to the UK after his business partner vanished with his passport.

Phil Oakland, 54, who finally returned home last week, spent five years stranded in the Asian country of Nepal before tracking down his former friend and his passport and visa.

NILALC100507A4 - Erewash election. Conservative winner Jessica Lee

NILALC100507A4 - Erewash election. Conservative winner Jessica Lee

But the retired site engineer said he was shocked by his treatment at the British Consulate in capital city Kathmandu, which he claims refused to help him.

And he has also blasted Erewash MP Jessica Lee, claiming emails he sent to her asking for help went unanswered.

“I feel let down and traumatised by the whole affair and it does not inspire me with any confidence about venturing abroad in a business capacity,” he said.

“It seems that British citizens are left to sink or swim with no proper avenues of support when they need them.”

Phil Oakland in Nepal.

Phil Oakland in Nepal.

Every year since his arrival in 1999, Phil had given his passport to his business partner and Nepalese national Geeta Bhattachan, so she could renew his 12-month business visa and he could remain living legally in the mountainous nation, famous for being the home of Mount Everest.

But in 2005, hotel owner Mrs Bhattachan failed to return the documents claiming there had been a delay because they had forgotten to submit company tax information.

Two years passed and Mr Oakland still had not received his visa or passport and everyday a $5 fee for having no visa was being levied by the Nepalese authorities – cash neither he nor Mrs Bhattachan had.

“I wasn’t worried at the time – I had no reason not to trust her,” said Mr Oakland.

Some of the beautiful scenery in Nepal, captured by Phil Oakland.

Some of the beautiful scenery in Nepal, captured by Phil Oakland.

“And I thought, ‘I’m in no rush’, It’s a beautiful country and I’ve made lots of friends there.”

In 2007, Mrs Bhattachan’s husband died and she fled to his hometown of Ahmedabd in India without leaving contact details for Mr Oakland.

He was left stranded in Nepal without a passport, visa or a hope of tracking his business partner down.

It was not until earlier this year that Mr Oakland discovered Mrs Bhattachan was living with her daughter in Seattle, USA.

One of Phil Oakland's photographs of the Gai Jatra festival in his village of Pokhara.

One of Phil Oakland's photographs of the Gai Jatra festival in his village of Pokhara.

He did not hesitate to inform the American immigration authorities – the Department for Homeland Security – who forced her to return to Nepal.

Mr Oakland arranged to have the police arrest his former friend, whom he had known since 1990, and she confessed all.

But just when he thought his troubles were over and he could return home for the first time in years, he was met with opposition at, of all places, the British Embassy in capital city Kathmandu.

“I went to the consulate to request a travel document so that I could return to the UK,” he explained.

“The receptionist refused me access to anyone in the consulate in person or via telephone to explain the situation.

“She provided a list of lawyers in Kathmandu said that I would not be given a travel document and that I would have to apply for a new passport from the passport office in Hong Kong.”

Some of the beautiful scenery in Nepal, captured by Phil Oakland.

Some of the beautiful scenery in Nepal, captured by Phil Oakland.

He added: “I’m a British tax payer and for me to be in need of assistance and not receive help is an absolute disgrace.”

It took seven weeks to obtain a passport via the internet from Hong Kong.

During that time he made contact with Jessica Lee.

After two weeks he had had no reply so contacted Miss Lee’s office manager who said she was looking into it, he said.

“I have had no contact whatsoever with my MP or help of any kind from my Parliamentary representative.”

Mr Oakland is now demanding an apology from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) over his treatment at the Kathmandu office.

Currently living with his cousin in Kirk Hallam, Mr Oakland intends to return next year to Nepal, a country he says he loves and where he currently helps poor children attend school in his village Pokhara.

He said: “I’m just giving something back to a country which has given me so much.”