Government probes embezzlement of gold samples collected for lab test
November 25, 2019 09:51 AM NPT
KATHMANDU, Nov 25: The Department of Commerce, Supply and Consumer Protection Management has started investigation on possible embezzlement of gold jewelries collected as samples by its officials during market inspection.
Previously, gold traders had registered complaints against the officials at the department and the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), claiming that market inspectors had not returned jewelries collected as sample to test purity of gold. Some samples have not been returned since 2012, according to jewelers.
Last Monday, the CIAA had asked the department to furnish details on possible misappropriation of the precious metals. The anti-graft body had given the department 10 days to carry out its inquiry.
Netra Prasad Subedi, director general of the department, said they have taken statement of number of former officials at the department. “Last week, we grilled the department's former directors Laxman Shrestha and Hari Narayan Belbase. We have asked the concerned officials to scrutinize documents related to market inspection,” added Subedi.
Following CIAA's direction, the department has formed a probe panel under Bhagawan Shrestha, director of legal section of the department. According to Subedi, many related files were lost when the government created separate ministries for supplies and commerce. "We hope to conclude our inquiry and submit report to the CIAA by next week," he added.
Officials of the department told Republica that former director Shrestha called officials for handover of jewelries that he had collected as sample for purity test. "However, our officials did not visit Shrestha as the case is under investigation," a source at the department told Republica.
Some officials said jewelers did not approach the department to receive yellow metal collected from them as they were selling substandard gold in the name of hallmark gold.
The department is the principle government body mandated to look after irregularities in the market. However, many have questioned the intention of department officials while conducting market inspections. In number of cases, the officials were found to be receiving bribes to let go the unscrupulous traders without being penalized.