KATHMANDU, April 10: General Secretary of ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) Bishnu Paudel is among those owning controversial land at Lalita Niwas, it is learnt. Lalita Niwas was duly acquired by the government and controversy arose after land on the premises was illegally transferred to the names of private individuals.
NCP General Secretary Paudel is found to have purchased 8 aana of land at Lalita Niwas through a businessman and the so-called land-mafia, according to investigation officials. The land purchased by Paudel is in the name of his son, Nabin.
The government recently barred transactions in 113 ropani and 3 aana land at Lalita Niwas, including the plot owned by Paudel, after it was revealed that all the land there was transferred illegally by some individuals in collusion with officials at Dilli Bazar Land Revenue Office and the District Land Reform and Survey Office, among others.
Paudel, who became general secretary of the newly-formed NCP after the merger of the erstwhile CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center), has held various ministerial portfolios including Finance during his political career. The ongoing investigation of Lalita Niwas land has become complicated as senior leaders of the ruling party are also getting dragged in.
Highly placed sources familiar with investigations being carried out by the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority and the Central Investigation Bureau said Paudel purchased 8 aana of the land through promoter of Bhatbhateni Super Market Min Bahadur Gurung and the ‘land mafia’ duo Shobhakant Dhakal and Ram Kumar Subedi.
Paudel had mentioned the 8 aana in Kathmandu Metropolitan City-4, Baluwatar when he released his property disclosure statement on becoming finance minister in the cabinet led by K P Sharma Oli in 2015. The property is in the name of his son, Nabin.
Gurung, Dhakal and Subedi had purchased 63 ropani of the land in 2060 BS from the family of Rukma Shumsher Rana into whose names it had been transferred . Since 60 ropani exceeded the ceiling on land holdings by one single individual, they had chosen to sell it off in smaller pieces to those at the centers of power and influence . Gurung, Dhakal and Subedi also seem to have jointly purchased land belonging to the British Council after selling off at Lalita Niwas.
Similarly, Election Commissioner Sudhir Kumar Shah is also found to have been involved in the government-owned land. According to a report submitted by a probe committee headed by former secretary Sharada Prasad Trital, Shah had brought 2 ropani in the name of his wife Urmila in 2049 BS. He was then a land revenue officer in Bhaktapur. Shah sold it to Ram Kumar Subedi and Shobha Kanta Dhakal in 2061/62 BS, when he was serving as chief district officer of Kavrepalanchowk.
The Trital probe report has recommended action against Election Commissioner Shah as well. It is found that then chief of the CIAA Deep Bahadur Basnyat, while serving as secretary at the Ministry of Physical Planning and Construction, had influenced the decision to allow ownership transfer of Lalita Niwas land to private individuals.
Basnyat, in a circular to the Ministry of Land Reform on July 10, 2010, made it easy for the ‘land mafia’ to transfer ownership of the government land. Then chief secretary Madhav Ghimire authenticated Basnet’s decision through a cabinet meeting.
Sources claim that the late Ghimire, who later on became foreign and home minister in Khil Raj Regmi-led election government, is a close relative of Dhakal.
A cabinet meeting on March 12, 2019 has already taken a decision to scrap all decisions to allow ownership transfer of government land to private individuals and bring the land back to the government.
Land sold at Rs 700,000 per aana
The ‘land mafia’ and the businessman involved sold the land belonging to Lalita Niwas at the rate of Rs 700,000 per aana. It is learnt that businessman Gurung, Dhakal and Subedi sold the land at that rate to various influential politicians and others after buying it from the Rana family in 2060 BS.
One Gopal Khanal, who also brought land from Gurung, said he did it without knowing that it actually belonged to the government.
“We four individuals brought 60 aana at the rate of Rs 700,000 per aana. We came to know only later that it was government-owned land,” said Khanal, while insisting that those who sold to them should compensate them according to the prevailing market price .
Lalita Niwas land was also purchased from Gurung by Shrawan Goyal and Kedia Group, among others.