KATHMANDU, Dec 15: The government has extended lease period of Gokarna Forest Resort to Yeti Holdings Private Limited for another 25 years.
A cabinet meeting held on Monday extended the lease period of Gokarna Forest Resort six years before the current lease expires.
Although a few cabinet members had initially objected to the proposal of extending the lease period even before the current term expired, they backed off after Prime Minister Oli requested them to endorse the proposal, sources said.
The decision has courted serious controversy as the government decided to extend the lease period to the same company without any open competitive bidding under the influence of Prime Minister’s Office.
Secretary at Nepal Trust Gajendra Thakur, however, said the lease period was extended to Yeti Holdings by following the due legal process. Thakur, who is also a member of the Executive Committee Board of Nepal Trust, said that Yeti Holdings had applied for the lease extension in April and that the cabinet had taken decision as per the recommendation made by the Trust after a thorough evaluation of the proposal.
When asked about the lease amount for which the lease period was extended, Secretary Thakur chose not to divulge any details.
Yeti Holdings is owned by the family of late tourism entrepreneur Aang Chhiring Sherpa, who died in a helicopter crash in Taplejung earlier this year. Leaders within the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) say Prime Minister Oli has personal ties with the Sherpa family since the past several years.
Yeti Holdings had been able to secure the lease of Gokarna Forest from LM Suvir Brothers (Nepal). As per the agreement reached between then Department of Crown Property, Royal Palace and LM Suvir Brother on August 16, 1996, LM Suvir Brothers required to hold at least 51 percent of its share throughout the lease period.
However, Yeti Holdings had managed to buy 100 percent of its shares after a meeting of the Executive Committee Board of Nepal Trust on February 9, 2014 decided to allow LM Suvir Brothers to sell away all its share to Yeti Holdings against the terms and conditions of the agreement. Sources familiar with the development say the decision was taken under the political influence exercised by Sherpa family.
As the agreement reached in 1996 does not allow making extension of lease period before the expiry of the current lease period, the government earlier had brought about various amendments to the Nepal Trust Act.