KATHMANDU, Nov 21: The Patan High Court recently acquitted the promoters of the controversial Unity Life International Limited, overturning four-year-old jail sentences imposed on them by Lalitpur District Court for fraud.
A division bench of Acting Chief Judge Durga Dutta Bhatta and Judge Shekhar Paudel issued the verdict in response to an appeal filed by the promoters a week ago.
The bench, however, returned the tax evasion case to Laliptur District Court for re-examination in line with the objectives of the company when it was incorporated at the Office of the Company Registrar.
The acquittal has drawn public attention because Acting Chief Judge Bhatta, who is going to take retirement on Thursday due to the age bar, has decided the case just before his retirement.
According to a court official, the bench has decided to return the case to Lalitpur District Court to re-examine whether or not the promoters of the company have fulfilled their liabilities. Convicting them in the fraud case, Judge Tek Narayan Kunwar had slapped a three-year jail term and a fine of Rs 10.6 million on each of them.
Chairman of the company Kashiram Gurung alias Prasad and other promoters Netra Rajbanshi, Indra Bahadur BK, Ghanashyam Bastakoti, Govinda Prasad Gyawali, Lok Bahadur Tandon, Bhim Bahadur Gurung, Bishwonath Gautam, Sishir Yogi, Bishnu Chhetri, Krishna Bahadur Chhetri and Mahendra KC were convicted by Lalitpur District Court. Police had arrested them after receiving complaints accusing them of collecting millions from thousands of individuals purportedly for running various ventures such as hospitals, insurance agencies, banks and cooperatives.
Expressing dissatisfaction over the district court verdict, the convicted company promoters appealed at the high court. The government had also filed a cross appeal stating that the jail sentences imposed on them were insufficient given the seriousness of the case. “Out of those convicted, Manoj KC is still absconding. Some have already served their sentences and a few are still in jail,” the court official informed.
The high court has acquitted them stating that there was no element of fraudulent activity involved in the case. “Even if any depositor claims his or her deposit with concrete evidence, it can be recovered from the assets of the company,” the bench ruled. The bench underlined that the company assets had been frozen by court order.
The district bench had also imposed six month jail sentences and fine of Rs 50,000 on Gurung, the chairman, and promoters Bishnu Bahadur Chhetri, Krishna Bahadur Chhetri, Mahendra KC, Netra Rajbanshi, Indra Bahadur BK, Bhim Bahadur Gurung, for violating the objectives of the company while getting approval from the Office of the Company Registrar as the company was running banking activities without the approval of Nepal Rastra Bank.