Kathmandu: French serial killer Charles Sobhrajresponsible for multiple murders of young foreigners in the 1970s across Asia, was due to be released from prison on Friday, prison authorities and his lawyer said.
Sobhraj, 78, whose life was chronicled in the hit Netflix/BBC series “The Serpent”, was to be deported to France within 15 days, according to a Nepalese court order.
But initially, after his release, he was to be taken to Nepal’s immigration department, his lawyer Gopal Shiwakoti Chintan told reporters on Thursday.
“Once he is taken to immigration, we will decide what the next course will be. He has a heart problem, so he wants to get treatment at Gangalal Hospital,” the lawyer said.
“But what will actually happen will be decided later after he arrives at the immigration office.”
The high court ordered the release on Wednesday of Sobhraj, who underwent heart surgery in 2017, on health grounds after serving more than three-quarters of his sentence for the murders of two North Americans in Nepal in the years 1970.
But his release from prison in Kathmandu was delayed on Thursday by legal and logistical problems.
Chintan said Sobhraj told him “he wouldn’t mind staying one more night in jail”.
A spokesperson for the French foreign ministry told AFP that its embassy in Nepal was monitoring the situation.
“If a request for deportation is notified to them, France would be obliged to accede to it since Mr. Sobhraj is a French national.”
Born in Saigon to an Indian father and a Vietnamese mother who later married a Frenchman, Sobhraj embarked on a life of international crime and ended up in Thailand in 1975.
Posing as a dealer in gems, he would befriend his victims, many of whom were western backpackers on the hippie trail of the 1970s, before drugging, robbing and murdering them.
Suave and sophisticated, he was implicated in his first murder, that of a young American whose body was found on a beach wearing a bikini, in 1975.
Nicknamed the “bikini killer”, he was eventually linked to more than 20 murders.
He was arrested in India in 1976 and eventually spent 21 years in prison there, with a brief break in 1986 when he escaped and was arrested again in the Indian coastal state of Goa.
Released in 1997, Sobhraj lived in Paris, giving paid interviews to journalists, but returned to Nepal in 2003.
He was soon spotted in a casino playing baccarat by journalist Joseph Nathan, one of the founders of the daily Himalayan Times, and arrested in a casino.
“He looked harmless… It was pure coincidence that I recognized him,” Nathan told AFP on Thursday. “I think it was karma.”
A Nepalese court sentenced him to life the following year for killing American tourist Connie Jo Bronzich in 1975. A decade later, he was also found guilty of murdering Bronzich’s Canadian girlfriend.
Behind bars, Sobhraj maintained he was innocent of both murders and claimed he had never been to Nepal before the trip that resulted in his arrest.
“I really didn’t, and I think I’ll get out,” he told AFP in 2007 during an interview at Kathmandu central prison.
Thai police officer Sompol Suthimai, whose work with Interpol helped Sobhraj’s arrest in 1976, had pushed for him to be extradited to Thailand and tried for the murders he committed there.
But on Thursday he told AFP he did not oppose the release because he and the criminal he once prosecuted were now too old.
“I don’t have any feelings for him now that it’s been so long,” said Suthimai, 90. “I think he’s already paid for his actions.”

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