Italian builder’s staff trying to flee, say police

  • Officials familiar with Italian group refute claim
- CHANDAN KUMAR MANDAL, Kathmandu
Police say eight CMC staffers including the project chief were caught from hotel. Blacklist sent to Immigration

Dec 18, 2018-Contrary to the reports that Melamchi Water Supply Project contractor Cooperativa Muratori e Cementisti di Ravenna’s officials were fleeing the country, an official familiar with the Italian group’s work with the Nepal government has denied the allegations, saying there was no such attempt.

Earlier on Monday, media reports, citing law enforcement officials, claimed that at least eight staffers of the CMC, including project manager Cristiano Greco, were conspiring to flee the country, leaving the national pride project in limbo.

The Melamchi project, which has already missed a series of deadlines over the years, still has 960 meters of concrete lining work remaining inside the tunnel.

An official told the Post that the fiasco resulted from the payment dues between the two parties.

The CMC side had been demanding an additional Rs1.65 billion and 570 extra days for additional works they have to do on the Melamchi project following the 2015 earthquake.

In the last week of June, the Dispute Adjudication Board (DAB), in its partial decision on the matter involving additional time and amount claimed by the contractor, had given the CMC an extra 212 days to complete the works.

The government had already paid Rs280 million to the contractor for 60,000 cubic metres of open cut at the headworks site.

Dissatisfied with the payment, the contractor had filed a case at the Singapore International Arbitration Court seeking the remainder of the compensation.

The contract between the CMC and the government has the provision of approaching the arbitration court if any party is not satisfied with the decision or the DAB fails to resolve the matter.

“The deadline for the compensation to be paid by the government to the contractor ended yesterday,” the official told the Post, adding the failing to compensate them would end in termination of the contract.

“Most of the CMC staffers were in Kathmandu. Only a few of our colleagues were leaving the country to celebrate Christmas with their families next week,” the official said.

The joint team from the Ministry of Water Supply, Metropolitan Police Crime Division and Metropolitan Police Circle Durbar Marg had apprehended eight staffers of the CMC, who, according to police, were planning to leave the country.

According to DSP Dan Bahadur Malla at the Durbar Marg Circle, the CMC staffers including the project chief were caught from Royal Penguin Hotel in Thamel late Sunday night.

“They had come to Kathmandu two days ago leaving the project site, and since then were suspiciously staying at the hotel. The way they were hiding here indicated that they were planning to flee the country without any information to the ministry and the project board,” said DSP Malla, adding they had planned to leave the country one by one.

The Water Supply Ministry team had requested the police to find out the representatives of the CMC after they had left the project site saying they would be in Kathmandu for Christmas celebrations.

Fearing their escape from the country, the ministry had given a list of names at the Immigration Department to bar their exit, said DSP Malla.

“One among the junior staff had reached the airport first, but was not allowed to leave the country. He might have tried to read the situation while others including the main project manager waited at the hotel,” added DSP Malla, who said these CMC staffers were later handed over to the ministry officials.

Metropolitan Police Crime Division chief SSP Dhiraj Pratap Singh said that passports of all the eight CMC workers had been confiscated as they had the intention of leaving the project in limbo.

Project Manager Greco, when reached for comments by the Post, refuted claims that he or his team was fleeing the country. He said he is in Kathmandu. The official who spoke to the Post said none of the CMC staffers was in police custody as of Monday evening.

The progress of the much-awaited water project has remained sluggish and snared into controversies after a breakthrough in tunnel digging last May, an achievement seen as a step closer to diverting water from Melamchi to Kathmandu Valley. However, the Italian contractor had continuously cited the cash flow as a reason behind the sluggish progress.

The government roped in the CMC in November 2013 after terminating the contract with the previous Chinese contractor--China Railway 15 Bureau Group. The Italian contractor, which began its work in January 2014 at the Sundarijal upstream side, had received the contract for Rs7.72 billion excluding VAT.

Headquartered in Ravenna, Italy, the CMC is the fourth largest construction company in Italy by revenue with consolidated revenues of approximately 1.2 billion euros in 2017.

The company with solid international presence was downgraded to B3 from B2 and its probability of default rating to B3-PD from B2-PD by the Moody’s Investors Service in September, and changing its outlook on all ratings from stable to negative.

The construction company, involved in transport, infrastructure, water and irrigation among other projects in countries around the globe, had admitted that it was on the brink of bankruptcy.

Published: 18-12-2018 07:25

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