KATHMANDU, April 4: The Supreme Court (SC) has stayed an ongoing government probe into a multi-billion rupee drug scam and ordered lifting of the suspension of senior government attorneys accused of letting major suspects in the case go scot-free.
Responding to a writ petition, a single bench of Justice Sapana Pradhan Malla issued an interim order to the government and the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) not to take any action in this connection until a further ruling.
The government had formed a committee to probe the ‘wrongdoings’ of two government attorneys facing a charge of not prosecuting the owners of two pharmaceuticals companies booked for smuggling drugs that were purchased for the production of medicinal items.
“A total of Rs 6.31 billion was claimed from all those accused but they softened the accusations and spared the main suspects,” said a highly-placed source at the OAG, adding, “We had suspended our own staff for the first time in our history on suspicion of colluding with the accused while filing the case. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has halted our investigations.”
March 8, the government had formed a committee comprising Deputy Attorney Generals Badri Gautam and Kiran Poudel and Joint-Attorney General Narayan Poudel to investigate the alleged involvement of the government attorneys in softening the accusations made against them by the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB).
The government had then suspended Kathmandu District Attorney Tek Bahadur Ghimire and Dhading District Attorney Daya Shankar Adhikari on the charge of not properly prosecuting the suspects. The attorneys were accused of weakening the case against the accused with a view to help the pharmaceutical companies avert the accusations.
District Attorney Ghimire filed the writ petition at the Supreme Court.Though the CIB prepared the investigation report, it is not mandated to file cases in court. Therefore, the police team asked the Kathmandu and Dhading District Attorney Offices to file cases against the suspects on charges of smuggling drugs purchased for producing medicines.
Sources at the Office of the Attorney General said that two cases related to the owners of the pharmaceutical companies were watered down by the district attorneys. Ghimire of Kathmandu Attorney Office had allegedly weakened the case against SR Drug Laboratory Pvt Ltd while filing the case at the court following police investigations.
Police had named the Laboratory chairman Madhusudan Agrawal, managing director Amit Gupta, members Ashish Agrawal, Sanjay Kumar Gupta and accounts chief Khadananda Sharma in its accusations.
The district attorney offices filed cases only against Khadananda Sharma and Sanjay Gupta, and the rest of the accused were left scot-free, arguing that the evidence could not establish their involvement.
According to the CIB investigations, Agrawal’s laboratory had purchased 2,110 kg of Pseudoephedrine from abroad with permission from the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Department of Drug Administration.
Of the total amount of the drug imported from abroad, the company sold 1,662 kg worth Rs 3.38 billion in the local market and this was supplied to India, according to the CIB report.
The drug, which can fetch $28.09 per gram in the local market, is banned for sale. Drug manufacturing companies can purchase the drugs only after getting permission from the Home Ministry and other authorities concerned.
The CIB has also asked the Dhading District Attorney Office to probe Dhading-based Tauras Pharma, which stands accused of involvement in supplying drugs in the guise of being a drugs manufacturing company.
The CIB had named Amit Gupta Agrawal, Sanjaya Kumar Gupta, Ashish Agrawal and Khadananda Sharma as being involved in drug trafficking. The district attorney office, however, spared Sanjay, saying that he had already been hauled to court in another similar case.
They were also accused of being involved in money laundering, drug smuggling and organized crime and were barred from selling their personal property. The district courts in Kathmandu and Dhading filed cases against them only on the charge of drug smuggling.
Tauras Pharma, according to the CIB, had bought 1,700 kg of Pseudoephedrine for producing medicines. They were accused of selling 1,437.5 kg of the drug worth Rs 2.92 billion in the local market.