#Lalita Niwas land-grab scam

CIB recommends legal action against 238 individuals

Published On: August 23, 2023 04:00 PM NPT By: Tapendra Karki

KATHMANDU, Aug 23: The Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) of Nepal Police submitted the probe report to the Office of the District Government Attorney (ODGA), Kathmandu, on Tuesday, assessing the loss of around Rs 18 billion in the case of embezzlement of government land inside Lalita Niwas in Baluwatar. The report recommended making 238 people defendants and claiming Rs 18 billion in compensation from them.

The CIB has concluded that government land has been embezzled in a planned manner. CIB chief, AIG Kiran Bajracharya informed Republica that it has been recommended to slap a penalty of Rs 18 billion on the defendants in this case as a means to ensure justice to Lalita Niwas. “I am pleased after submitting the report. The recommendation is to claim a compensation of about Rs 18 billion. We received cooperation from various sources during the investigation, and we have successfully gathered substantial evidence. I think the court will also give justice to Lalita Niwas based on the evidence presented," he said.

The report identifies four former ministers, including Bijay Kumar Gachhadar, as potential defendants in the land embezzlement case. Sources said that the then Minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport Gachchhdar, State Minister Sanjay Shah, Former Land Reforms Ministers Chandra Dev Joshi and Dambar Shrestha are recommended to be listed as defendants. However, a statement was not taken from Shrestha, statements of three others have been taken. On the other hand, CIB has stated not to make former Prime Ministers Madhav Kumar Nepal, Dr Baburam Bhattarai and former chief secretary Leela Mani Paudyal and communication secretary Krishna Bahadur Raut as defendants.

Six former secretaries have been made defendants and recommended to be prosecuted for organized crime. The CIB has recommended that the then administrative and political leadership of the Ministry of Physical Planning and Land Reforms, who are responsible for making the decision-making processes related to land administration and public construction transparent and corruption-free, are involved in embezzlement of government land. Former secretaries Deep Basnyat, Chhabi Raj Panta, Dinesh Hari Adhikari, Yubaraj Bhusal, Narayan Gopal Malego and Rabindra Man Joshi have also been recommended as defendants.

Although the CIB took arrest warrants against 406 individuals to investigate this case, only 17 individuals were detained. According to the CIB, the number of defendants has decreased due to the repetition of the same accused in four cases. The CIB conducted separate investigations for case numbers 24, 25, 26 and 27. CIB investigated for 56 days and submitted a 771-page report to the ODGA in Kathmandu on Tuesday. Achyut Mani Neupane, chief of ODGA, said that the report had not been reviewed on Tuesday.

"Due to special reasons, this file could not be reviewed on Tuesday, it will be reviewed and studied only from Wednesday," he said. According to the CIB, the report has been submitted mentioning that in the years 1992, 2005, 2009 and 2012, the middlemen registered the government land of Lalita Niwas in the name of an individual by forging government documents.

In 1961, His Majesty’s Government confiscated the lands of the Rana family including Subarna Shamsher. In the year 1964, when the government acquired six palaces, it also acquired some additional land of Lalita Niwas compound by giving compensation. After the restoration of democracy in 1990, the interim cabinet led by Krishna Prasad Bhattarai decided to return the land of the Rana family that had been confiscated, and efforts were made to make the government land in the name of Guthi and tenants. The cabinet led by Bhattarai had decided to return only the land that was not included in the ceiling and to investigate the land that had been seized, with the Ministry of Home Affairs making the decision. Based on the same decision, the middlemen started the collusion.

Based on the decision of the Council of Ministers, the land acquired by the Land Revenue Office Dillibazar, Kathmandu in 1992 was also returned to the Rana family. The police claim that the decision of the Council of Ministers to return only the confiscated land was misinterpreted by the then officers of Land Revenue who, in cahoots with the middlemen, conspired to forge government documents and create fake tenants. After the Rana family got the land back, Shobhakanta Dhakal and Ram Kumar Subedi conspired to grab the land of Lalita Niwas in Baluwatar, the police claimed.

They forged documents in 2005 and brought 12 annas of land in the name of Suniti Rana. The then government had instructed the Land Revenue Office to register the exempted land in the name of Suniti Rana. In the year 2009, the land of Lalita Niwas was embezzled in the name of expanding the VIP residence area. The then Minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport Bijay Kumar Gachchhadar took the proposal to the Council of Ministers to expand the road in the Lalita Niwas area and also to extend the Prime Minister's residence area.

In the year 2012, the middlemen registered the Pashupati Tikinchya Guthi and brought the government land in the name of the individual. The then Council of Ministers had given permission to set up the Tikinchya Guthi.

Four distinct case reports

The CIB has submitted a report with four separate scenarios to the ODGA with the conclusion that the land of Lalita Niwas has been taken over four different times. Case number 24 reveals the embezzlement of 112 ropanis 4 annas 1 paisa of land. Arrest warrants were issued against 209 individuals in relation to this case.

Investigation findings in case number 25 indicate the establishment of the Pashupati Tikinchya Guthi, resulting in the embezzlement of 4 ropanis 14 annas 2 paisa 2 daam of land. Arrest warrants were issued against 110 individuals linked to this case.

In case number 26, it is mentioned in the report that 12 annas and 2 paisa of land was embezzled under the pretext of registering exempted land and 13 people were involved in it.

In case number 27, the CIB has stated that 25 ropanis 7 annas 1 paisa 1 daam of land has been embezzled in the name of compensation and exchanged for the expansion of private residential areas in Baluwatar. The CIB has said that there are 74 people involved in this and those individuals who returned the land should not be prosecuted.

Master Planners

The CIB has claimed that there are four master planners who organized government land and registered it in the name of individuals. In the investigation report, Bhatbhateni Supermarket owner Min Bahadur Gurung, middleman Shobhakanta Dhakal, Ram Kumar Subedi and Kailash Chandra Goyal have been presented as the master planners. Along with the four main planners, Hupendra Mani KC, Shivaratan Sharda, Manoj Kumar Kedia and others have also been accused in the report.

It is mentioned in the report that Dhakal contacted political party leaders-cadres and employees and Subedi searched for house design within the Land Revenue Office and created fake tenants. The CIB claims that since Subedi himself was a clerk at the Land Revenue Office, Dhakal assisted him.

The CIB claims that Gurung arranged the money for the land transaction and also because there were many lands in the name of family members, it was revealed that he was an investor. Apart from donating some land, Gurung also offered a portion of land to Kumar Regmi, the then legal practitioner and now Supreme Court justice, as a 'lawyer fee' for legal debate. Gurung also sold the land of Lalita Niwas to the Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA). It is mentioned in the report that land has been registered jointly in the names of Dhakal and Subedi jointly, as well as their respective family members.

Team of eight district attorneys in investigation

Eight government lawyers under the leadership of Achyut Mani Neupane have been deployed in the debate and research study of the Lalita Niwas land embezzlement case. The team consisting of Mahesh KC, Basudev Sharma, Janak Prasad Ghimire, Ramesh Bhattarai, Chandra Prasad Sanjel, Prakash Ghimire, Dinesh Bhattarai has been deployed in this. “We will present the case to the court after going through the legal provisions," said Neupane.


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