Reuters International

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepal on Tuesday banned an Indian couple from mountain climbing in the country for 10 years after they tried to fake a successful ascent of Mount Everest with digitally altered photographs, officials said.

Police constables Tarakeshwari and Dinesh Rathod were among hundreds of climbers who attempted the 8,850 metre (29,035 feet) summit this climbing season, a year after the peak was closed following the death of 18 climbers in an avalanche triggered by an earthquake.

Tourism Department official Gyanendra Shrestha said a government investigation had confirmed complaints by other climbers that the Indian couple had doctored photographs to show themselves at the top of the world's highest mountain.

"We have revoked their climbing certificate," Shrestha told Reuters. "They will not be allowed to do any climbing activity in Nepal for 10 years."

Tourism officials said that analysis of photos submitted by the couple showed they had superimposed their faces and the Indian flag on pictures taken by another climber who had climbed Everest a few days earlier than they claimed to have done so.

They held a news conference in the capital, Kathmandu, on June 5 to say they had reached the peak of Everest on May 23.

The Rathods, who serve in the police force in the city of Pune, could not immediately be reached for comment. The city's commissioner of police, Rashmi Shukla, said an inquiry had been opened into apparent discrepancies in their Everest account.

"We are waiting for information from the Nepali side," Shukla told Reuters.

Nepal is home to eight of the world's 14 highest peaks. The $11,000 permit fee paid by climbers is a key source of income for the cash-strapped country, in addition to outlays for logistics, sherpa guides and gear that support its economy.

(Reporting by Gopal Sharma and Douglas Busvine; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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