SC tells banks to get Sumargi's withdrawn money redeposited
January 11, 2019 06:05 AM NPT
‘Issue may require action under money laundering charge’
KATHMANDU, Jan 11: The Supreme Court on Thursday directed Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) and Nepal Investment Bank Limited (NIBL) to re-deposit a 'controversial amount of money' released from the bank account of Muktishree Private Limited, which is owned by businessman Ajeya Raj Sumargi. The court said it was deposited before a short-term stay order was issued in this connection in the last week of December.
In the short-term stay order issued on December 25, a single bench of Justice Deepak Raj Joshee had directed the authorities concerned not to prevent Sumargi from withdrawing the amount of USD 6,99,989 from a bank account. The money had been blocked by the central bank for lack of a clear source for it.
A division bench of Chief Justice Cholendra SJB Rana and Justice Ananda Mohan Bhattarai made public the text of their judgment in the order they issued refusing a stay order extension in the case on January 8.
“Deposit back the controversial amount received by defendant Nepal Investment Bank as it was deposited before the December 25, 2018 order and the short-term stay order wasn't given continuity, and also the question whether the money was brought legally remains unanswered,” the division bench said in the text of the judgment it issued Thursday.
The apex court also stressed that the case may needed to be investigated for possible money laundering as the money in question seems to be suspicious. “…it is stated that the money is suspicious because the name of the sender is Ajeya Raj Sumargi Parajuli while the receiver is Muktishree Private Limited of the same person…,” it said. If money entering Nepal is suspicious, that should be investigated under the Money Laundering Act 2064 BS, it said. It also said such action is necessary to maintain healthy financial development in the country.
The text of the judgment clearly hinted that the single bench had misused its judicial powers while issuing the short-term stay order in favor of Sumargi.
Though the January 8 order asked the banks not to release the money, Sumargi had reportedly already withdrawn most of it.
Observing that as Sumargi brought the amount with no verified sources, there were sufficient grounds for initiating action under a money laundering charge, the apex court underlined the need for prompt action in this regard. In line with the division bench order, Sumargi has to deposit back the amount he withdrew taking advantage of the previous short-term stay order.
With the division bench refusing to give continuity to the stay order directing the government and the banks not to prohibit businessman Sumargi from withdrawing the amount brought from foreign banks to Muktishree Industries Pvt. Ltd, the short-term stay order issued by Joshee's single bench on December 25 turns void.
Following the hearings conducted on Tuesday with the participation of both parties—the petitioner on one hand and the government and NRB on the other –the apex court refused to continue the stay order even though the business firm owned by Sumargi had reportedly already transferred the amount out of his account at NIBL.
On December 25, the single bench of Justice Joshee had summoned the authorities to participate in the hearings and also directing the authorities—the government and NRB—not to prohibit Sumargi from withdrawing the amount from his bank.
Challenging the NRB prohibition on Sumrargi withdrawing the seven million US dollars, he had filed the writ petition at the apex court.