KATHMANDU, Dec 18: The government has permitted Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) to send its senior pilot Captain Subarna Awale, who is being tried in the court on charge of foreign currency smuggling, for training in Singapore.
Awale, who was arrested on charge of smuggling US dollar on April 10, was freed on bail a week later.
NAC, after getting go-ahead from the Department of Revenue Investigation (DRI), Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA), and Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), permitted Captain Awale to attend the training for renewing his flying license.
“All the four entities have decided to send Awale for training,” a source in NAC told Republica. “He will fly to Singapore at 11:30 pm on December 22 and stay there for a week.”
According to the source, Sugat Ratna Kansakar, general manager of NAC, insisted with the other government entities to let Awale attend the training.
After receiving 'no objection letter' from the DRI, NAC had asked MoCTCA for its approval. The Ministry later directed the CAAN to allow him to undergo training with 'strict conditions'.
CAAN permitted Awale to fly to Singapore for training, three weeks after it received letter from MoCTCA.
Earlier on August 25, MoCTCA had canceled his training program after Republica carried a story about NAC sending a smuggling-accused pilot for training. He was flying to Singapore on the same day.
A joint meeting of Chief Secretary Rajendra Kishor Kshatri, acting secretary of MoCTCA Suresh Acharya, Director General of DRI Bhupal Baral, Deputy Director General of DRI, Yagyaraj Koirala, among other officials, had directed the NAC to cancel Awale's training program.
“How can the NAC send someone, who is facing a criminal charge, for overseas training before the case is settled?” the source wondered.
A highly-placed official at the tourism ministry claimed that the permission has been granted with strict conditions. Some of the conditions are: the training should not affect investigation against Awale, he should furnish expenses incurred during the training as deposit, and that the board of NAC must approve the training. Similarly, Kansakar will have to take the responsibility if Awale did not return to the country, and bear all expenses related to the case if Awale is found guilty.
Captain Awale was on April 10 with undeclared US currency from the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) in Kathmandu while he was waiting for his flight to Dubai. He was released on bail after some days. Though he is not allowed to fly, he is drawing salary of Rs 300,000-400,000 every month.
The source said Kansakar decided to send Awale for the training on the recommendation of the national carrier's operation department. Moreover, Kansakar had also sought permission from the CAAN to let him fly. However, CAAN refused to give permission until the case against him is settled.
Kansakar has been arguing that Awale cannot be suspended without seeking permission from the tourism ministry, CAAN, DRI and the court.
Awale's training will cost the national flag carrier US$ 14,000 to 16,000 (approximately Rs 1.4 million to Rs 1.6 million). Besides, he will get daily allowance of $200 (Rs 20,000).
According to Flight Safety Regulations of CAAN, anyone accused in criminal case is not allowed to enter the airport, according to a senior official of CAAN.
Awale, who started his flying career three decades ago with Twin Otter aircraft, had been flying Airbus A320 aircraft as a senior pilot for the past two years before he was arrested on April 10.