Finance minister meets top officials over Nepal Leaks report

Published On: January 19, 2019 06:54 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, Jan 19: Finance Minister Yuba Raj Khatiwada on Friday held an internal meeting concerning the money laundering exposed by Nepal Leaks. The minister had a meeting with officials of all government units involved in money-laundering investigations, in the wake of the Nepal Leaks disclosure about 55 Nepalis stashing ill-gotten money in different offshore companies and foreign banks. Most of them have also brought the money into Nepal as foreign direct investment.

Khatiwada discussed the matter with Deputy Governor of Nepal Rastra Bank Shivaraj Shrestha, Director General of Department of Revenue Investigation Dirgha Raj Mainali, Deputy Director General of the Department of Anti-Money Laundering Investigations (DAMLI) Binod Lamichhane, and chief of the Financial Information Unit (FIU) at Nepal Rastra Bank Ramu Paudel. He has instructed them to provide further information.

Finance Secretary Rajan Khanal confirmed that the minister met the officials but it was kind of informal as the DAMLI operates directly under the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).

Many bureaucrats who are familiar with the issue expect the finance minister to take tough action against those involved in the massive scam, which has harmed the economy and spawned corruption. All the officials the minister met with briefed him on the investigations they have been carrying out in this connection and into money laundering in general.

The minister's meeting was organized hours before Prime Minister KP Oli vowed in parliament to carry out investigations.

The Nepal Leaks probes were conducted by the Center for Investigative Journalism Nepal in association with the International Consortium for Investigative Journalism USA, and the findings were made public on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the PMO on Friday issued directions to the FIU at Nepal Rastra Bank and to DAMLI to initiate investigations into the Nepal Leaks revelations.

A source at the PMO informed that the directions were issued to expedite matter.

Meanwhile, businessman Upendra Mahato, who is named in the revelations, has refuted his involvement in any financial crime. Issuing a press statement on Friday evening, Mahato, who is a former president of the Non-Resident Nepalis Association, said the Nepal Leaks report was misleading.

Mahato said he has been investing in companies established in various countries and had been in international business. But he has not mentioned the names of the countries where he has made his investments.

Mahato is also unhappy with the linking of his family with financial crimes. “As a businessman, it is disheartening to see the names of my family members, especially my brother Birendra Prasad Mahato and sister Juli Kumari Mahato, being dragged into unnecessary controversy,” reads the press statement.

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