KATHMANDU, July 11: The government has expedited the process to procure small arms for Nepal Police from an Italian company, Beretta, at a price four times more than the actual unit price.
Highly-placed government sources said preparations have been made to procure weapons from Beretta company, arguing that the weapons from another Italian company, Benelli, were more expensive.
The government is set to buy 12-bore guns and 9-mm pistols manufactured by Beretta Company. It has booked a weapon produced by the company for 3,200 Euros per unit even as the weapon costs 700 to 800 Euros each, according to sources familiar with their prices. This is about four times more than the actual price.
Although Nepal Police had stopped using 12-bore guns 10 years ago, 50,000 kg of the same type of weapon has been booked by the government. "The weapons have been booked with the Italian company Berreta on Thursday following the government's decision," the source said.
The purchasing cost is way more than the actual cost. A company named Infinity Holdings and its subsidiary owned by businessman Deepak Bhatta is mediating the deal in the special interest of Sher Bahadur Deuba and the outgoing Finance Minister Janardan Sharma, according to the source.
"It is not possible to buy weapons without political interest. Prime Minister Deuba and former finance minister Sharma seem to be most interested in this deal,” said a senior official at the Ministry of Home Affairs. Bhatta, according to sources, convinced Prime Minister Deuba and the Finance Minister Sharma to allocate the budget for the purchase of arms.
Businessman Bhatta, however, said that his company is not involved in procuring arms for Nepal Police. He also clarified that he is not involved in arms procurement in the past eight years. “I have not shown any interest to procure arms for Nepal Police and Armed Police Force. The company owned by me also has not shown any interest in this now,” he told Republica.
The government has booked the weapons through a Nepali company instead of calling a global tender to buy arms and ammunition worth around Rs 1.35 billion. "Weapons are being imported from Italy's BS Cargo SE. The cargo will bring weapons to Nepal from Korean airlines,” the source said. All the booked weapons are old. “The government has booked the weapons made in 2017. However, weapons made after 2020 are modern. They have not even considered the size of old weapons," the source said.
“It seems the government plans to buy the weapons no matter what. Nepal Police does not need 12-bore guns even if it is in need of arms.”
Former DIG of Nepal Police Hemanta Malla said that it is wrongful act if the government is buying arms due to political interests. "12 bore guns were banned when Ramesh Chand Thakuri was the IGP. Procuring the same types of arms again is just a huge loss to the state,” he said.
“Nepal Army has made Nepal Police a platform to dump its obsolete weapons. Police need weapons but that does not mean that the state's property should be wasted by buying arms through unscrupulous middlemen and under political pressure,” said Malla.
A source at the Nepal Police Headquarters said, “In the recent local elections, police had to borrow some pistols from the Nepal Army. It seems that police have been put under pressure to buy weapons in order to avoid such a situation,” said the source.