Role of PM Oli, who is patron of Nepal Trust, under scrutiny for serving interests of business group
KATHMANDU, Nov 15: In yet another instance of the misuse of political power, a sister company of Yeti Holdings Private Limited is found to have secured a huge area of land in the prime location of Durbarmarg in the capital belonging to Nepal Trust, at an unbelievably low rent.
Thamserku Trekking Private Limited, a company owned by the family of the late Angchhiring Sherpa , is found to have secured a lease for the one ropani and 14 aana of prime land belonging to the Nepal Trust, at a rent of just Rs 5 million a year, through the political influence of Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli.
According to documents made available to Republica, Nepal Trust and Thamserku Trekking reached a lease agreement for 30 years on May 28, 2017, at Rs 5 million a year in rent. Many shop owners in the high-end locality, who pay an average of Rs 400,000 in rent for one shop, were taken aback on learning that the ropani and 14 ana was given for just Rs 406,000 a month.
The role of the Executive Committee Board of Nepal Trust in taking the decision has now fallen under serious public scrutiny. A former secretary at Nepal Trust said that the board members had leased the land to Thamserku Trekking, a subsidiary of Yeti Holdings owned by the Sherpa family, through the influence of the highest political office in the land.
The former secretary disclosed that the Sherpa family had exerted huge pressure to secure the lease. But they could not succeed then as he was opposed to giving the property to any private party.
The trekking company is currently developing a huge building on the land, displacing the Nepal Trust office.
There is a rumor at the Nepal Trust that the late Anghchhiring Sherpa had promised then Nepal Trust secretary Arjun Karki, who awarded the lease, a share in Thamserku Trekking after his retirement from government.
Clause 5 (1) of the Nepal Trust Act states that the property of the Trust shall be utilized in the interest of the nation to serve the best public interests. Trust property may be utilized to establish and operate educational or academic institutions like a school, college, university, etc and to provide donations for the operation of such institutions, to establish public medical institutions such as a hospital or health post and to operate such entities in the manner prescribed.
Officials at Nepal Trust seem to have flouted this provision when Thamserku Trekking was given the prime property for purely commercial use.
Although the agreement between Nepal Trust and Thamserku Trekking was reached on May 28, 2017, an amendment to the Nepal Trust Act purportedly for validating the agreement seems to have been brought in on March 3, 2019, or some 21 months later.
Experts argue that the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) should initiate action against the officials responsible for leasing the land in contravention of the provisions of the Act. Former treasurer of Nepal Bar Association Mohan Ingnam said Trust officials did not have the authority to grant the lease for purposes other than those stated in the Act.
The recent amendment to the Nepal Trust Act allows use of Trust land for tourism and other entrepreneurship. But Kedar Rijal, an advocate, said the law cannot be made retroactive.
Senior officials at the Office of the Prime Minister admit that the amendment was brought in as per the design of the late Angchhiring Sherpa and the direct intervention of Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli, who is patron of the Nepal Trust. Prime Minister Oli is widely seen as being close to the Sherpa family.
“The prime minister has already gifted an ambassadorship to the Sherpa family, let alone land,” said an official, asking not to be named. The Oli government recently appointed a niece of the late Sherpa as Nepal's ambassador to Spain.