“Both sides agree to adopt policy to severely punish people amassing properties by means of corruption while remaining in government posts.”
The above mentioned lines are from Clause 3.11 of the Comprehensive Peace Accord signed by the Nepal government and the Maoists on November 21. On those lines, both the sides have expressed their commitments to severely punish those corrupts. However, the latest developments from politics to judiciary are proving that those words also may just be the high rhetoric. Both the sides have failed to convince people that they are really serious on punishing those evils. Some people have taken this as a commitment to punish those remaining in government posts during the Royal regime, while others have taken this just as a tool to eyewash the general public.
As time passes, it is human nature that the people forget and forgive the crime of anyone. Nepal’s Ranas who amassed billions of property from the state are still enjoying the state privileges at other parts of the world and even within the country with that money. Then the Palace coteries amassed billions and billions of rupees. That too, is forgotten and forgiven after the fall of Panchayat. Those corrupts were totally forgiven when a Judicial Inquiry Commission on Property, headed by Supreme Court Justice Bhairab Prasad Lamsal was formed some four years back. The Lamsal Commission submitted its report recommending strong action against some 2,000 persons remaining in the government posts after the restoration of democracy. Now too, the political system of the country has changed and it seems like that the corrupts of the multiparty democracy era will also be forgotten and forgiven any day; setting example that Nepal is the state of impunity. None will be punished.
The Everest Uncensored has been trying uncovering such evils to remind people so that at least they could point their fingers to them and say, you are enjoying with our money and some day, you will be brought to the book and punished.
In this series, the Everest Uncensored tries to uncover the top ten corrupt politicians and what sort of political and social privilege they have been enjoying. As many of those evils are the members of the House of Representatives and National Assembly, they have secured their position in the interim legislature as well as per the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) and Maoist agreement. Thus the Nepalese are still not being free from those evils. Prospects loom large those evils may try to fish in the troubled water, taking advantage of the ongoing transition.
1. Chiranjibi Wagle
It is the single and record case ever in the history of Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority on which a prominent political figure was proved corrupt by the court. Wagle remained in key positions after Multi Party democracy. He is still a member of House of Representatives from Gorkha-1 so that his position is secured in the interim legislature as well. He was the Minister for Land Reforms and Management; during Krishna Prasad Bhattrai’s cabinet. He was Minister for Supplies in the cabinet headed by Girija Prasad Koirala in 1990 and Minister for Information and Communication in the cabinet headed by Sher Bahadur Deuba in 1996. He was also deputy to Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba in 2002. He was one of the key members to instigate Deuba on dividing the Nepali Congress in 2002.
Wagle was fined Rs.27.3 million and given a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence by a special court. The Commission for the investigation of Abuse of Authority accused Wagle of misappropriating over Rs.30 million by using his clout to bolster his son’s travel and trekking business, and of making false declarations about his assets. The court also ordered that the property Wagle had acquired illegally be confiscated.
This was the first time in Nepal that action was taken against such a senior political leader. However, Wagle has been enjoying the dilly dally of Nepalese Judicial system. He immediately filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court which released him on bail. And now Wagle has begun to appear in the front of political arena. Though he resigned from the post of Party vice President, he is still the Ceotral Committee member of Nepali Congress (Democratic). Wagle, once a key member to divide Nepali Congress, is now forcing Party President Sher Bahadur Deuba to unite with Nepali Congress. Maybe, he is looking for another shield to conceal his misappropriated property.
(Pics: Wagle is seen talking to journalists in both the pitures. Two pictures carry two opposite meanings. At the pictures at left he is talking to the journalists at his residence in capacity of a Minister whereas on the next he is talking to journalists at the premise of CIAA after recording his statement,)
2. Govinda Raj Joshi
Govinda Raj Joshi was the Minister for Water Resources in Krishna Prasad Bhattrai cabinet in 2000. He was the Home Minister in the caretaker cabinet headed by Girija Prasad Koirala. He served as Minister for Education twice in 1991 and 1996.
Protecting Corrupts: Joshi is still close aide of Girija Prasad Koirala. So why Koirala can’t be spared from the allegations that he has protected corrupts and institutionalised corruption.
Joshi was supposed to have been involved in many scams. He was supposed to have benefited millions while publishing the result of the permanent teachers which was later annulled by the court. The CIAA had charged him of embezzling 3.93 million rupees. The CIAA sought a 13-year imprisonment, seizure of all illegal property and a penalty equal to the property he had amassed.
To the best of Joshi, the special court has acquitted him of all those charges. The CIAA petition has been quashed by the Special court. The court took the decision even without entering the facts, just for a reason that the case was not filed within the timeframe. The Special Court judges Bhupadhwaj Adhikari, Komal Nath Sharma and Cholendra Shumsher Rana in their ruling have said that the case filed against Joshi did not even draw the attention of the court to enter the “facts” to make a verdict.
He is still a central member of Nepali Congress, and close aide of Girija Prasad Koirala. Joshi reserves the position in the interim legislature as he represents Tanahu-1 at the House of Representatives. May be, again people may reiterate his name as a Minister some day again.
3. Khum Bahadur Khadka
Khadka has also assumed many key positions in the governments after the Multi Party democracy. He was another key figure on instigating Deuba for Nepali Congress faction. He was Minister for Housing and Physical Planning; and Local Development in Krishna Prasad Bhattrai Cabinet in 2000. He was Minister for Works and Transport in the cabinet headed by Girija Prasad Koirala in 1991, Minister for Home in the cabinet headed by Sher Bahadur Deuba in 1996 and Minister for Supplies in the cabinet headed by Girija Prasad Koirala in 1998. Khadka also has the reserved position in the interim legislature as he is the member of House of Repreesentatives from Dang-1. He assumed the portfolio of Home Ministry in Deuba cabinet in 2002.
The CIAA has filed several cases against this political player from western Nepal. However, Khadka has got the clean chit from the court. The recent verdict of his acquittal by the special court has come under controversy. A three-member bench comprising chairman of the Special Court, Bhupadhoj Adhikari, and members Komal Nath Sharma and Cholendra Shumsher Rana had given clean chit to Khadka. The CIAA had charged him of embezzling 23.6 million rupees illegally during his tenure as the minister. (Pic: Khadka, once the powerful Home Minister is seen under police custody at the picture)
Khadka had got clean chit in the separate case as well. The CIAA had accused Khadka of embezzling Rs 40.5 million while awarding a work of Bakraha River Control Project to China Henan Company. However, the special court had acquitted him.
Khadka, once a key member to divide Nepali Congress, has now returned to the Nepali Congress, severing his ties with the Sher Bahadur-Deuba-led NC (Democratic); and is seen making gracious presence in the central Committee meetings of the Nepali Congress.
4. Rabindra Nath Sharma
The hard liner Royalist and Panchayat minister Rabindra Nath Sharma leads the list among the corrupt politicians. He has assumed the port folio of Finance Minister multiple times during Panchayat and after Multi party Democracy as well. The CIAA has charged Sharma of embezzling 41.5 million rupees. His case is under review at the Special court. However, there are speculations that he will also be acquitted in the same ground as the to former Ministers duo Khadka and Joshi were.
Sharma had become notorious for his speech at the public account Committee of House of Representatives in 1998 where he had readily accepted that the corruption and smuggling continued in the past, is still continued and will continue in the future as well.
After Royal takeover in February 2005, Sharma panel firmly supported the move. The group along under the leadership of another diehard Royalist and the then Home Minister Kamal Thapa forcefully captured the Rastriya Prajatantra Party. After the election Commission denied to recognize Kamal Thapa led faction, they have separately formed Rastriay Prajatantra Party Nepal and Sharma holds the dignified position of the Chairman. In recent days he has begun to claim position in the interim legislature and the government as well.
5. Kamal Thapa
This diehard Royalist since Panchayat era made a dramatic move in the multiparty democracy. He jumped into the Rastriya Prajatantra Party which was initially formed as an alliance of the Royal loyals. Thapa went on making playing his card game and succeeded on being minister for multiple times.
After Royal takeover in February 1, 2005, Thapa changed his skin and kneeled before the King. As a result, he was able to resume the portfolio of the Home Minister in the Royal cabinet. Though he hasn’t been charged and convicted yet, he was notorious for 500 thousand rupees pocket money during his latest tenure as Home Minister. There were reports that he took the money every day during the staged municipal polls and later in people’s uprising, which didn’t need any receipts and place of expenditure. He is supposed to have been embezzling millions of rupees alone during this tenure; let alone his previous tenures.
After Royal takeover in February 2005, Thapa, along with other most tainted men Padma Sundar Lawoti and Rabindranath Sharma forcefully captured the Rastriya Prajatantra Party. After the election Commission denied to recognize the faction, they have separately formed Rastriaya Prajatantra Party Nepal and Thapa resigned as its chairman, paving way for no less corrupt Sharma.
6. Tarini Datta Chataut and Lauda Scam
He is the prominent personality behind Lauda scam that ever in the Nepalese parliamentary history made the House to continuously postpone for 57 days and finally end without single parliamentary session. Exactly from the point Nepalese parliamentary system lost people’s faith which finally paved the way for Royal takeover in 2002.
Chataut, the then Minister for Tourism and civil aviation, was charged of illegally operating and benefiting from the most infamous Lauda air procurement deals. The CIAA had claimed that the lease led to a direct loss of the RNAC of over 389 million and that should be compensated from the convicts. The case reached the Patan appellate court from where he was released in a bail of 2.1 million rupees. The case, after the establishment of Special court to look after the corruption cases, was transferred to special court. The Special court is yet to give verdict on the most infamous case. The delay on delivering verdict on such case is taken as a failure of the Special court. The speculations behind such delay are that the case also involves the then Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala who is the key figure in the national politics so far.
Chataut was supposed to be the close mate of Girija Prasad Koirala. He was also initially proposed as the Speaker in the House of Representatives which was later bagged by Taranath Ranabhat. The political debate was ignited when there were reports that the then Prime Minister Koirala hid him in his official residence when Patan Appellate court had ordered him to be present before the court.
(Pic: Chataut talking to journalists after recording his statement at the CIAA regarding Lauda scam.)
The far westerner Chataut is Still an MP and reserves a position at the Interim legislature. And still is an influential leader inside Nepali Congress.
7. Jaya Prakash Prasad Gupta
This multiple time Minister was notorious not only for embezzling the state funds, but also curbing the media during his tenure as the Minister for Information and Communications. He was who barred the FM stations from broadcasting the News which was later followed to the best by the Royal regime.
CIAA accused Gupta of making more than Rs.30 million through illegal telecommunication deals, unlawful procurement of mobile phone sets and wrongful renewing of cinema licenses during his tenure. He was also charged and acquitted in a deal with the Kantipur Television Network for clearing the security bund of 25 million rupees.
This guy was a Congressman. As the Minister in Deuba cabinet, he was one of those who incited Deuba to divide party. However, later he became uncertain whether to follow Deuba too. That’s why he has taken the other communal slogan now. He has formed a party named Madheshi Jana Adhikar forum and is busy doing the communal politics. Still, gupta, as a member of House of Representatives from Saptari – 1, reserves position in the interim legislature.
8. Bijaya Gachchhedar
Bijaya Kumar Gachhadar served lately as Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation in Deuba government in 2002. He assumed same port folio in Krishna Prasad Bhattrai cabinet in 2000. He served as Minister for Information and Communication in 1992 and Minister for Works and Transport in 1996. As others Gachhadar also reserves a position in the interim legislature as a member of House of Representatives from Sunsari-2.
As the Minister in Deuba cabinet, Gachchhedar was also one among those who incited Deuba to divide party. Hence, he was able to reserve the post of Joint General Secretary of Nepali Congress (Democratic). Now, in line with other corrupts including Chiranjibi Wagle and Bal Bahadur KC, Gachchhedar is pressuring Deuba for Party unification with Nepali Congress.
(Partners in crime: Gachhadar and Shrestha host a press Conference)
Here is an excerpt from a 1999 issue of a weekly that helps us find how notorious could have he been:
Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation Bijaya Kumar Gachchhedar has been contacting various power centres to cover up his wrong doings. Gachchedar has been charged for taking financial benefit during his tenure as Minister for Works and Transportation. Presently, he has been charged for supporting and helping international smuggler.
News source says the INTERPOL has also been trying to arrest Gachchhedar. Similarly, an international gang has been threatening him that they would reveal all his past history if they don’t get the money demanded by them. Nevertheless Gachchedhar’s dark secrets have already been revealed.
(See: Khabarkagaj, Thursday, August 19, 1999)
9. Radha Krishna Mainali
This hard liner Communist who once raised arms against the establishment in 1971 and suffered many years in prison dramatically changed his stance and became the icon of feudal system. He was the leader of Left Front that co worked with the Nepali Congress to make the 1990 movement a success. His role on this movement was lauded. With the legacy of Jhapa uprising, he was elected at the House of Representatives multiple times and as an influential leader inside the Party, assumed the port folio of various ministries as well. However, his close aides had already begun to find rift on his stances. The party leaders and cadres were already skeptic about his activities. He was interrogated by Lamsal Judicial Commission on property followed by a CIAA investigation for amassing property illegally.
(Royalty and the Loyalty: Mainali follows King Gyanendra at an inaugural function.)
Fed up with his diminishing influence inside the party, Mainali turned a royalist in latter years and subsequently was able to be appointed Education Minister in King’s cabinet. He was in the forefront on defaming the political parties during his 15 months term as the Minister. After the success of people’s uprising 2006, Mainali is seen nowhere. However, there are possibilities that he may, any day in the future, come out in the political arena as the Panchayat heroes changed their skin during multi Party democracy.
10. Gopal Man Shrestha
Gopal Man Shrestha was proposed as the candidate for Deputy Prime Minister in present government led by Girija Prasad Koirala. He has assumed the portfolios of Minister for Commerce, Forest and Soil Conservation and lately as the Minister for Physical planning and works in the current government.
Khanal-Rojin and Turpentine case shook the parliament in 2002. On the recommendation of CIAA the then minister for Forest and Soil Conservation Shrestha along with his State Minister Surendra Hamal, was fired for taking a bribe for approving a file of Khanal-Rojin and Turpentine Ltd.
Shrestha also reserves his position in the interim legislature as the member of House of Representatives from Syangja-2. He is also the vice President of Nepali Congress Democratic.
Shrestha has however succeeded on improving his public figure to some extent. During Party President Deuba’s imprisonment at the custody of Royal Commission for Corruption Control, he played an active role on behalf of Deuba during talks with the Maoists. He also actively participated in the people’s uprising 2006. There haven’t been any incidents of corruption reported during his current tenure.
None the Royal Ministers and the King’s coteries can’t be spared off this list. Those may include Satshitshumsher, Sharadchandra Shah, Ramesh Nath Pandey and hundreds others who have been embezzling state property since ages. There are as many as hundred politicians in the list of Everest Uncensored who have deceived the people who elected them to the parliament and paved way to the government. They have not only amassed huge property but also formed alliances with the Royalists to defame the multi party democracy. Such politicians are somehow more protected by Nepali Congress who still enjoy privileged position in the Nepali Congress. President Girija Prasad Koirala, though he succeeded on making King bow down before the public, is still protecting such corrupts. It was his tenure in the past which was full of many scams and he ever remained dumb towards such events. People say Koirala is not a corrupt. But people can’t forgive him as an institutionalizer of corruption.
The number is higher in Nepali congress Democratic. The Rastriya Prajatantra Party has very few people without the stains of corruption or illegal deeds. The CPN UML has also never been serious towards interrogating its comrades if how they could amass such large property.
In the given scenario, people are only hopeful about the Maoists. But they have also failed to assure the people. People have taken the extortion drive in the latter days as an indication to show how much the Maoists loved money. People don’t have much expectation with the Maoists either. However, the Maoists can only benefit from people’s sentiment that they hated corruption.
(This article is just an attempt to see the patterns of political corruption in the country. The persons in the list may not exactly fall on the same serial or more corrupt people might have been missed. )