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Minister Adhikari refutes his involvement in aircraft purchase irregularities

- Sanjaya Lama, Kathmandu

Jan 7, 2019-

Minister of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Rabindra Adhikari has refuted allegations of his involvement in irregularities during the procurement of two wide-body aircraft.

Speaking at a press conference orgainsed at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation in Singha Durbar on Monday, Adhikari urged the authorities concerned to carry out a fair investigation into the purchase of two wide-body Airbus A330 jets.

He made it clear that the decision to procure the wide-body aircraft was not taken during his tenure and he only implemented the past decisions.

“I released the amount on the scheduled time,” he said, adding, “I could not change the time and if I had not released the amount, we would have been unable to recover the commitment fee sent to purchase the jet.”

Earlier on Saturday, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli had enquired Adhikari about the controversial aircraft purchase by Nepal Airlines Corporation.

The sub-committee formed by the Public Accounts Committee to look into the alleged financial irregularities in the procurement of two wide-body aircraft for the Nepal Airlines Corporation submitted its report on Wednesday.

Read: Airbus A330 purchase scandal: Oli government faces moral quandary

The committee led by Nepali Congress lawmaker Rajan KC submitted a 58-page investigation report to PAC accusing the high level officials at the Tourism Ministry of misappropriating funds while procuring the two-wide body aircraft.

The report has charged Civil Aviation Minister Rabindra Adhikari, Civil Aviation Secretary Krishna Prasad Devkota, Secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office Sisir Prasad Dhungana, and Managing Director of Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) Sugat Ratna Kansakar, among others, with embezzling at least Rs 4.35 billion  during the procurement of two wide-body aircraft.

The committee has held 34 incumbent and erstwhile government officials responsible in one of the largest corruption incidents in the country’s history. Among them are former aviation ministers Jeevan Bahadur Shahi and Jitendra Dev, who had served in the governments led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Sher Bahadur Deuba respectively, and former aviation secretaries Shankar Prasad Adhikari, Prem Kumar Rai and Maheshwor Neupane.

The report has categorically termed NAC Managing Director Sugat Ratna Kansakar as the kingpin of the scandal and recommended for his immediate suspension along with two sitting secretaries, Prem Kumar Rai and Krishna Prasad Devkota, and former secretary Shankar Prasad Adhikari who had acted as NAC chairman during their tenure as tourism secretary.

Shahi has been accused of sending the commitment fee to purchase the jet through a ministerial-level decision.

Dev has been accused of making the first payment to HiFly X Ireland, the supplier of the jets, during his tenure.

Earlier, on the subcommittee’s report, Adhikari had said he would not resign only for the “superficial” charges even as it created moral pressure on him. He had also said that the subcommittee had failed to pinpoint his involvement in the aircraft procurement process, claiming that the report was prepared and publicised with bad intention.

Published: 07-01-2019 11:54

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