KATHMANDU, July 2: The Special Court on Monday acquitted 22 Armed Police Force officials, including former inspector generals Kosh Raj Onta, Sanat Kumar Basnet, Shailendra Kumar Shrestha and Basudev Oli, of corruption charges, on the ground that the charges labeled against them could not be substantiated.
Separate cases were filed against the four APF chiefs and several others on charges of misappropriating millions in budget funds through the use of fake documents during the transport of logistics to police barracks. Following an investigation, the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) filed corruption case against them in February 2016 on the charge of pocketing millions in collusion with bogus firms .
The anti-graft body had suspended the then sitting IG Onta on the charge of irregularities and he was subsequently taken into custody before the corruption case was filed. The three other ex-IGs were also arrested and later released on bail.
But the Special Court, the fast-track tribunal for hearings in graft cases, conducted the hearing for the separate cases at one go and gave clean chits to the ex-IGs who had initially evaded court summons for months.
A bench of the Special Court headed by Court Chairman Baburam Regmi acquitted them, arguing that the basic principle of fair trial had not been adhered to while filing the cases. “The basic principle of fair trial was not adhered to while investigating the corruption charges. Also, the arrears related to the transportation of logistics were already settled after a final audit,” said court spokesperson Pushparaj Pandey.
Former APF chief Onta was accused of collusion with the bogus transportation firms Sada Jyoti Suppliers and Aditi Transportation and junior officials in misappropriating Rs. 60.71 million through the use of fake documents. Another former APF chief Sanat Kumar Basnet was accused of misappropriating 91.05 millions. EX-IGs Shrestha and Oli were accused of embezzling Rs 8 million and Rs. 11.45 million respectively.
The armed police chiefs were charged when Lokman Singh Karki was at the helm of the CIAA. In its acquittal ruling, the court questioned the intentions of the anti-graft body in investigating the matter.
“It has been found that the investigation officers failed to take into account the security sensitivity of the armed police force with its paramilitary nature and [adopt] result oriented procedures while probing documents related to the logistics transportation,” states the court ruling.
The court has also questioned the intentions of the paramilitary force. Citing the text of the impeachment motion filed against the then CIAA chief, the court has stated that the corruption case was filed against the APF with the intention of weakening that vital security organization.
Those convicted of corruption can challenge a lower court decision at the Supreme Court.