CIAA files graft case against 23 officials

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KATHMANDU, APR 04 – The Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority on Friday filed a corruption case against 23 high-ranking government officials, including two sitting secretaries and suspended Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) chief Subas Nirola, on the charge of embezzling Rs340 million.

The charge sheet filed at the Special Court accused the officials of misappropriating taxpayers’ money and demanded Rs810 million in fines.

Along with Nirola, NTB’s acting director Anil Das, senior directors Nandani Lahe Thapa and Aditya Baral, directors Hikmat Singh Ayer and Kashi Raj Bhandari, senior managers Lila Bahadur Baniya and Diwakar Rana, and managers Dhruba Rai and Laxman Gautam have been named in the high-profile corruption. Forest Secretary Sharad Chandra Poudel and Law Commission Secretary Ranjan Krishna Aryal, including Joint-secretaries Dilli Prasad Shiwakoti and Megh Bahadur Pandey and Director General of Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (Caan) Ratish Chandra Lal Suman have also been charge-sheeted.

Poudel had served as an NTB board member when he was the director general of the Department of Immigration and Aryal was an invitee member on the board as the joint-secretary at the Tourism Ministry. Shiwakoti is a joint-secretary at the Finance Ministry. As per the provisions of the anti-corruption law, all sitting government employees have been automatically suspended after the case was filed against them in court. As a result, the NTB has been left without senior officials. Former Tourism Secretary Sushil Ghimire, who had also served as the NTB chairman, has also been indicted. He faces the charge of assisting the amendment of the Financial Bylaws of the Board to suit the interests of the board officials. The amended law had given unlimited spending powers to the NTB chief.

Private sector representatives Pampha Devi Dhamala, Rewat Bahadur Thapa, Dhruba Narayan Shrestha, Phur Gyalzen Sherpa and Mahendra Khanal are also on the defendants’ list.

Meanwhile, 29 lower level officials at the Tourism Board, who were also accused in graft, have been granted remission for assisting in the investigation.

A CIAA team led by SSP Yadav Raj Khanal has concluded that the NTB officials misappropriated Rs 147.06 million from banks alone while Rs73.92 million was misappropriated by producing fake bills for programmes that did not exist.

Similarly, Rs 46.49 million was withdrawn from the state coffers for personal benefits, Rs 41.62 million was embezzled by producing fake transportation bills, and Rs 8.05 million was misused by creating of fake employees.

The officials are also accused of pocketing Rs 6.13 million by producing fake air tickets and Rs 2.47 million in the name of purchasing alcohol.

The charge sheet accuses Nirola alone of embezzling Rs330 million in procurements.

Shiwakoti, Tika Ram Sapkota, Poudel and Aryal have been slapped a combined Rs 6.12 million in penalties for promoting irregularities by amending the bylaws.

Similarly, former tourism secretary Ghimire, Pandey and Caan DG Suman, including private sector representative Pampha Devi Dhamala, Rewat Bahadur Thapa, Dhruba Narayan Shrestha and Phur Gyalzen Sherpa have been slapped a combined penalty of Rs 112.89 million.

Contrary to the practice of producing the accused before the court while filing the case, none of the officials charged with corruption was present at the Special Court on Friday. CIAA spokesman Begendra Sharma Poudel said the accused officials have not been arrested yet.

proposed penalty

Subash Nirola (officiating CEO)    Rs 337.25m

Anil Das (acting director)    Rs 179.49m

Hikmat Singh Ayer (director)    Rs 165.46m

Aditya Baral (Sr director)     Rs 4.17m

Nandani Lahe Thapa (Sr director)     Rs 3.41m

Kashi Raj Bhandari (director)     Rs 3.48m

Prachanda Man Shrestha (Ex-CEO)    Rs 2.88m

Dhurba Rai (manager)     Rs 627,399m

Laxman Gautam (manager)     Rs 368,156m

Lila Bahadur Baniya (manager)     Rs 100,260m

Diwakar Bikram Rana (manager)     Rs 255,046m

CORRUPTION QUANTIFIED

COUNTERFEIT BILLS    LOSS OF PROPERTY

Misuse of money from bank      Rs 147.06 million

Without programmes     Rs 73.92 million

Personal spending    Rs 46.49 million

Goods purchase     Rs 41.62 million

Transportation     Rs 19.64 million

Withdrawal from employees name     Rs 8.05 million

Airlines tickets     Rs 6.13 million

Alcohol purchase     Rs 2.47 million

International mart     Rs 864,225

Misuse of money by amending bylaws     Rs 628,277