Chand outfit spokesman under probe for terror financing

  • Department of Money Laundering Investigation says it has started probing Khadga Bahadur Bishwakarma
- PRITHVI MAN SHRESTHA, Kathmandu

Mar 3, 2019-

The Department of Money Laundering Investigation says it is probing a leader of the Netra Bikram Chand-led Communist Party of Nepal for his involvement in possible terror financing.

Sources told the Post that the department started initial investigation into Khadga Bahadur Bishwakarma, spokesperson for the Communist Party of Nepal, after police handed over documents related to the outfit’s extortion drive, claiming that the extorted amount was being used to conduct terror acts in various places.

On the night of February 22, the Chand-led party detonated an improvised explosive device near the gate of Ncell head office in Nakkhu, Lalitpur, killing one person and injuring two. Its members also carried out a series of attacks on mobile communication towers of the company the same night.

Jeevan Prakash Sitaula, director general of the department, confirmed that initial investigation has begun.

Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa told a parliamentary committee on Sunday that documents and pieces of evidence gathered by the government indicated the Chand-led party’s involvement in the attacks.

Bishwakarma, a long-time Maoist member, was minister for tourism and civil aviation in the Jhala Nath Khanal-led government in 2011.

Bishwakarma, along with his leader Chand, had left the Maoist party in 2012, along with Mohan Baidya and Thapa, to form a new Maoist group, saying the Pushpa Kamal Dahal-led party had deviated from its Maoist ideology. But Chand and Bishwakarma left Baidya and Thapa in 2014 to form the Communist Party of Nepal and “take Nepal’s revolution forward” through what they call “unified revolution”.

In 2016, however, Thapa returned to Dahal’s Maoist party and became home minister last year in the incumbent KP Sharma Oli Cabinet. After taking charge of the Home Ministry, Thapa issued arrest warrants against Chand and members of his party.

Police arrested Bishwa-karma on August 7 last year from Dakshinkali, south of Kathmandu, on the charge of running an extortion drive.

He was released and arrested several times and taken to different districts including Dang, Bhojpur and Kavre. He faces the charges of blast, murder and extortion.  

Bishwakarma was charged with detonating a bomb targeting Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba’s elections rally at Urahari in Tulasipur-12, where a temporary cop deputed for election management was killed on November 28, 2017.

Accused of a blast targeting a rally attended by Sher Dhan Rai, who is currently the chief minister of Province 1, on November 14, 2017, Bishwa-karma was taken to Bhojpur. He also faces charges of attacking the towers of Ncell, a private telecommunication service provider, in Kavre and Nuwakot. Besides, he was charged with setting a crusher industry on fire in Namo-buddha-6, Kavre.

Even as the Chand-led party is on the government radar for carrying out explosions, extortions and attacks, it has not been declared a terrorist group.

After the Maoist rebels joined mainstream politics in 2006,  the government had repealed the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Punishment and Control) Ordinance, known as TADO, to ensure that leaders and cadres of the rebel parties would not be arrested and those arrested would be released.

TADO, which was first introduced in 2002 with the aim of controlling the Maoist movement, was made stricter in 2004.

With no law concerning terrorism and the government not declaring the Chand-led party as a terrorist outfit, the Department of Money Laundering Investigation says probe into the activities related to terror financing has become a bit complicated.

“It is difficult to determine the activities of the Chand-led party as terrorism as the party has not been officially declared a terrorist group,” a senior official at the department told the Post on condition of anonymity citing the sensitivity of the matter. “So we are studying if we can establish the Chand-led party, Khadga Bahadur Bishwakarma for that matter, has been using the extorted money in terrorist financing.”

Likewise, former minister for industry, commerce and supply Shyam Sundar Gupta is also being investigated by the department for possible money laundering. Gupta had earlier served a three-year jail term after he was convicted in 2012 of masterminding the abduction of Pawan Kumar Sanghai, an apparels trader and owner of Arya Pharmaceuticals.

Sanghai was abducted on December 22, 2011 from the Ganesh Temple in Kamaladi. He was released on January 11, 2012 after he paid Rs8.5 million to the abductors, according to police.

At that time, Gupta was a lawmaker from Nepal Sadbhawana Party (Anandevi). After serving three years in jail, he was released in July 2015. He was again arrested in September 2016 on the charge of extorting money from a woman.

The official at the Department of Money Laundering Investigation said officials are investigating into his property to determine whether it was amassed through criminal activities.

“So far, we have not seen much property in his name,” the official said.  “We have sought documents from the land revenue offices to find if there are any beneficiaries of his properties.”

Investigating officials say probe into extortion cases is difficult because money is usually paid in the name of donation and those who “provided” the donation—that can be individuals or companies—also need to be booked to proceed with the investigation.

Although a number of political leaders have been accused of amassing property through illegal means, only a few of them face the charge of money laundering.

On March 30 last year, the Department of Money Laundering Investigation filed a case at the Special Court against disgraced former state minister and lawmaker Sanjay Kumar Sah, who stands accused of murder and complicity in the 2012 Janakpur bomb blast. The charges against him include amassing Rs320.45 million through terror tactics, according to the department.

Police arrested Sah in May 2014 for the April 30, 2012 explosion in Janakpur in which five people died and 32 others were injured. He is also charged with murdering Janakpur Today Communications Group Chairman Arun Singhaniya in Janakpur on March 1, 2010. The Supreme Court on September 18, 2015 upheld the Janakpur Appellate Court’s verdict of jailing Sah for possessing illegal arms.

While some leaders have been charged with amassing illegal wealth, they have got the clean chit on money laundering from the Special Court.

On August 20, 2017,  the court acquitted Rajeev Gurung aka Deepak Manange of money laundering charges.

Manange won provincial elections from Manang ‘B’ as an independent candidate with tacit support from the erstwhile CPN-UML.

Milan Gurung aka Chakre Milan, who was arrested for extortion and amassing property through illegal means, also faced money laundering charge. But he was acquitted of the charges on January 24 last year.

On April 8, the court exonerated Parshuram Basnet, a leader of the ruling communist party’s sister wing Youth Association Nepal, and on June 19, Abhisek Giri got a clean chit from the court.

On August 9 last year, the Special Court sent Nepali Congress leader Ganesh Lama, to one-year jail with confiscation of property worth Rs14.05 million.

The Department of Money Laundering Investigation had filed separate cases against these five “gangsters” on May 19, 2013, charging them with money laundering.

Published: 03-03-2019 10:54

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