Police grant immunity to Home Minister Lamichhane, raising questions about impartiality in cooperative fraud case investigation

Published On: April 17, 2024 10:30 AM NPT By: Tapendra Karki

KATHMANDU, April 17: Despite the persistent demand from the main opposition party Nepali Congress (NC) for the formation of a parliamentary inquiry committee to investigate the cooperative fraud case involving Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Rabi Lamichhane, the government has not initiated any legal action against the accused.

Lamichhane, a shareholder of Supreme Cooperative in Butwal, acquired a loan of Rs 20 million which remains unpaid. However, he has been excluded from the list of defendants in the case registered at the Rupandehi District Court on Monday.

A charge-sheet filed by the District Public Prosecutor's Office, Rupandehi at the court on Monday afternoon claims that an amount of Rs 19.6 million was transferred from the cooperative to Lamichhane’s account number 001-001-015-000224 maintained with Global IME Bank after deducting the service charge on March 31, 2021, but there is no evidence of loan repayment. Despite mentioning this fact, Lamichhane was not included in the list of defendants, raising suspicion of foul play.

The District Public Prosecutor's Office, Rupandehi filed the case against 28 individuals as the main defendants, and an additional 1,002 defendants.  Although the charge-sheet clearly mentions Lamichhane's involvement in taking loans worth Rs 20 million to purchase shares of Gorkha Media Network, the police did not even bother to interrogate him. Sources claimed that political protection from the highest level has prevented action against Lamichhane.

A public prosecutor said that it is not fair to implicate the employees of the cooperative while turning a blind eye to the shareholders.

According to the charge sheet filed by the public prosecutor’s office, it has demanded recovering Rs 15.7 million from the defendants including Gitendra Babu Rai (GB Rai), Om Prakash Gurung, Sagar KC, Bhupendra Rai, Devendra Rai, and Kumar Ramtel. However, it is alleged that Lamichhane, a shareholder at the same level, has been granted immunity even though he has not repaid the debt.

Similarly, the government attorney has demanded recovery of Rs 38 million from Dinesh Rokka, Rs 140,000 from Bhabhiswar Aryal, Rs 1.8 million from Durga Chapagain Pandey, Rs 545,000 from Deepak Neupane, Rs 1.3 million from Hemant Adhikari, Rs 150,000 from Kabita Tamang, Rs 10 million from Nabin Achhami, Rs 300,000 from Dipesh Kumar Pun, and Rs 211,000 from Suraj Shrestha.

Similarly, the charge-sheet demands recovery of Rs 166,963 from Raj Baral, Rs 34,000 from Mazhar Mohammad, Rs 34,000 from Ashraf Ali Siddiqui, Rs 1,95,000 from Ashish Anand, Rs 18,700 from Buddhi Gurung, Rs 6,36,000 from Dhiraj Kumar Das.

The total amount claimed from the defendants stands at Rs 1.72 billion.

The government prosecutor stated that Lamichhane, who is a shareholder in both Gorkha Media Network and Supreme Cooperative, should not go scot free.

Gorkha Media Network launched Galaxy TV on February 23, 2021. Gorkha Media Network initially had GB Rai and Chabi Lal Joshi as shareholders. At that time, Rai and Joshi each had 250,000 shares.

The police investigation revealed that Lamichhane, the incumbent deputy prime minister and home minister, became the managing director with 180,000 shares in December 2021 about 10 months after the Galaxy TV was launched. Also, it was found that Lamichhane maintained shares in the cooperative while acquiring loans.

GB Rai and his group have invested millions of rupees in Galaxy TV from funds acquired from the cooperative operated in cities like Kathmandu, Butwal, Pokhara, Chitwan, and Birgunj. Moreover, the police investigation has reported that Supreme Cooperative of Butwal, in which Lamichhane is also a shareholder, invested Rs 142.9 million in Galaxy TV.

The police investigation concluded that no proper procedures were followed when funds from Supreme Cooperative were transferred to the account of Gorkha Media Network. However, Lamichhane’s immunity from legal action raises concerns about accountability and transparency in the cooperative fraud case.

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