Politics in full play as accusations fly over tainted jet purchase deal

  • House panel tweaks report, takes out the part that calls for ‘lawful action’ against ministers
- SANGAM PRASAIN, Kathmandu

Jan 15, 2019-

In most of Nepal’s high profile corruption cases, politics has a crucial role to play—and this is evident once again after the credibility of a parliamentary committee’s investigation into two Airbus aircraft purchase deal came into question. 

In a new twist in the tale, there are accusations flying around—with names from former prime minister and Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba to former prime minister and Nepal Communist Party Co-chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal to incumbent Prime Minister KP Oli doing the rounds.

A fresh copy of Parliamentary Affairs Committee report obtained by the Post shows that the House panel had made a key change in its earlier report.

The old report had recommended “lawful action” against sitting Tourism Minister Rabindra Adhikari and two former tourism ministers—Jeevan Bahadur Shahi and Jitendra Dev—and asked them to “take moral responsibility”

But the fresh report has taken out the “lawful action” part and called on the government to consider, in principle, arrangements for making them “morally liable”. 

“Besides removing ‘lawful action’ against the former and incumbent tourism ministers, several pages from the full report endorsed by the accounts committee have gone missing,” Pradip Yadav, a member of a subcommittee under the parliamentary committee, which had earlier investigated into the two A330 purchase deal and submitted the report to the committee, told a press meet in Kathmandu on Monday. 

“After making a slew of changes, the report has been sent to the departments concerned such as the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), the Prime Minister’s Office, and Tourism Ministry, among others,” said Yadav, a lawmaker from the Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum-Nepal, a partner in the Oli administration. “No one knows what all have been changed.”

 

“The report is now of no use. It’s rubbish and can be thrown into the trash,” he said. 

In line with what the Post had reported earlier, Yadav admitted that the sub-committee had failed to take cognisance of some crucial facts. 

The Post had brought to notice the fact that Jitendra Narayan Dev was not serving as the tourism minister when a decision to send the first instalment of $79 million was taken by the Deuba government on June 19, 2017. Then prime minister Deuba himself was looking after the aviation portfolio instead of Dev at the time.  

“Our investigation was based on the documents sent by the Tourism Ministry officials and accordingly we probed the issue,” Yadav said. “We were also not aware of the fact that then prime minister Deuba was looking after the aviation portfolio,” added Yadav. “Ministry officials have fooled us by sending wrong information.”

Though he called for necessary action against the ministry officials, Yadav did not explain why the sub-committee’s investigation was slipshod and why they completely relied on the information committee members were fed. 

Yadav said the move of changing the report was part of a bid to protect “big fishes” in multi-million dollar Airbus purchase scam. 

Following the Post’s reporting, other media outlets too had carried stories reporting Deuba was the tourism minister when the first instalment was made to buy the two aircraft. Deuba, however, said on Monday in Dhangadhi that the process to buy the aircraft was initiated when Dahal was the prime minister. “All other processes for procuring the wide-body aircraft were started during the Pushpa Kamal Dahal-led government. The decision to act as the loan guarantor for the Nepal Airlines Corporation for procuring the aircraft was taken when Dahal was the prime minister,” Deuba told journalists in Dhangadhi. 

Ram Krishna Yadav, a former PAC chairman and a Nepali Congress leader, said he was surprised to hear that his party president was once the tourism minister. “Whether it’s Deuba or any other person, all of them must face a probe,” he said.

Published: 15-01-2019 06:59

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