SAC taskforce wants army ex-chief Chhetri’s property probed

Published On: February 14, 2020 07:35 AM NPT By: Ashok Dahal  | @ashokpillar

KATHMANDU, Feb 14: A taskforce formed by the State Affairs Committee (SAC) of the House of Representatives has sought investigation into the property of former chief of Nepal Army Rajendra Chhetri. The move of the taskforce comes in response to ‘several complaints’ that allege Chhetri’s involvement in ‘massive financial irregularities’ during his term in office. Chhetri served as army chief from September 2015 to September 2018.

The House committee is expected to take a decision next week on whether to recommend an investigation into Chhetri’s property. If a recommendation is made, it will be the first time that a former or incumbent army chief’s property will be investigated.

Acting on several complaints against Chhetri registered at the committee in May 2019, the taskforce led by former minister Rekha Sharma wants to investigate his property by the anti graft and anti-money laundering agencies of the government. 

An anonymous complaint registered by Nepal Army staffers at the committee has demanded nationalization of Chhetri’s property alleging that Chhetri had grossly abused his authority to accumulate funds through illegal means.

The complaint also accuses him of taking salary, allowances and vehicles from the Nepal Army Welfare Fund apart from his regular salary and benefits, receiving a salute meant for the head of the state and denying social security allowances to army staffers injured or killed in the course of Maoist insurgency, among other things.

“It would be appropriate to write to the Anti-Money Laundering Department and the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) to investigate his property and inform the committee on the outcome of the investigations,” reads the recommendation of the taskforce. 

Another complaint has demanded investigation into “financial irregularities committed in the construction of Nepal Army headquarter building” during Chhetri’s tenure as the chief of the army. The complaint has demanded that a high-level panel be formed to investigate Army headquarters building construction, which was done in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes, and the money recovered from Chhetri be distributed among the earthquake victims. 

The taskforce has recommended forwarding the complaints to the Ministry of Defense for conducting investigation and taking legal action against those involved in corruption. 

Samajbadi Party lawmaker Renuka Gurung has also registered a complaint at the SAC demanding probe into the property of senior army officials. Gurung has also demanded bringing the Army under the purview of the CIAA. NC lawmaker Dilendra Badu and NCP lawmaker Nawaraj Silwal are among the members of the taskforce led by Sharma.

Task force coordinator Sharma said the House committee will reach a decision on whether or not to order investigations, after conducting deliberations on the report of the the taskforce. 

“The taskforce’s recommendations are not binding to the committee,” Sharma said, adding the committee can revise or even reject the recommendations. 

NC lawmaker Amresh Singh demanded investigation into the “financial irregularities committed in the [Kathmandu-Tarai] fast-track construction and army helicopter procurement among other things” during preliminary deliberations on the task force report on Thursday. 

SAC has received 50 complaints on various issues in the last two years of its formation.

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