CIAA Files Graft Case against 32 Alleging Corruption of Rs 1.5 Billion in Aircraft Purchase Deal

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CIAA Files Graft Case against 32 Alleging Corruption of Rs 1.5 Billion in Aircraft Purchase Deal

April 5: The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) has filed a case against 32 individuals in the Special Court alleging that they were involved in corruption amounting to one and a half billion rupees in the purchase of a wide-body aircraft for the Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC).

The anti-graft body confirmed that a case has been filed against 32 people including former tourism minister Jeevan Bahadur Shahi, former secretary Shishir Kumar Dhungana and Shankar Adhikari, the then General Manager of NAC Sugat Ratna Kansakar.

Among those charged by the CIAA include 24 Nepalese and 8 foreign nationals. The CIAA has claimed an amount of Rs 1.47 billion from the defendants.

The then Minister for Tourism Shahi has been accused of signing an agreement that was detrimental to the national flag carrier of Nepal due to the acceptance of certain terms and conditions such as inflation and to purchase an aircraft of less carrying capacity by paying price of a higher carrying capacity aircraft.

According to the CIAA, the carrying capacity of the aircraft was reduced from 242 tons to 230 tons when the technical requirements were made, but the payment was made for the aircraft with capacity of 242 tons.

The authority alleges that such work was done in collusion between the NAC employees and those who prepared the proposal. In the charge sheet, the CIAA stated that the proponent was permitted to make payments in dollars without providing a bank guarantee. In this way, the corporation had to pay more than Rs 1.47 billion.

The CIAA filed a case against Shahi, demanding recovery of the sum equal to the embezzled amount.

Former minister Shahi Karnali is also a member of parliament and former chief minister. Currently, he is the leader of the Nepali Congress parliamentary party in the Karnali Province Assembly.

As soon as the case was registered according to the Corruption Control Act, he was suspended as a member of the Provincial Assembly. He became Tourism Minister from the Nepali Congress when Pushpa Kamal Dahal was the prime minister for the second time.

Sugat Ratna Kansakar, the then general manager and member of the board of directors of the NAC, has been accused of irregularities and mala fide intentions while preparing the tender documents.

He had unnaturally increased the cost estimate and prepared the terms of the contract through negotiations. The CIAA accused him of unreasonably increasing the cost estimate by preparing a request for proposal contrary to the standard bidding document as stipulated by the Public Procurement Act, and accepting the condition of inflating the price as proposed by  the supplier AAR Corp. The authority has also mentioned that procurement of goods through negotiations is not envisaged in the Public Procurement Act.

As he was also a high-level government official at the time of the purchase of the aircraft, the authority has also demanded an additional three-year prison sentence under the Corruption Control Act.

Similarly, the then members of the NAC’s board of directors, Shishir Kumar Dhungana, Joint Secretary Buddhisagar Lamichhane of the Ministry of Tourism, Teknath Acharya, Nima Nuru Sherpa, and Muktiram Pandey are also accused of proceeding with the aircraft procurement process without amending the regulations.

Similar CIAA has demanded slapping fines against Joint Secretary Jeevan Prakash Sitaula and Achyutaraj Pahadi. The NAC’s commercial director Ramhari Sharma Sedhain, Janakraj Kalakheti and deputy director Prabash Kumar Karmacharya are accused of working in mala fide intention while in the procurement sub-committee and proposal evaluation sub-committee.

The director of the corporation Ganesh Bahadur Chand, the commercial director Karna Bahadur Thapa and the acting director and senior captain Subas Rijal are also accused of corruption by preparing false documents.

Deputy General Manager of the corporation Ramesh Bahadur Shah, Acting Director and Senior Captain Rabindra Kumar Sherchan, then Commercial Director Rabindra Shrestha, Upendra Paudel, Shravan Rijal, then Acting Deputy Director Paras Paudel, Umesh Paudel and Brihatman Tuladhar are accused of working maliciously while in the aircraft procurement sub-committee. They are accused of increasing the NAC’s financial obligations to pay additional amount by adding a condition later as there was no provision for price increase in the initial document.

A corruption case has also been launched against British citizen Deepak Sharma. He is still the president of AAR Corporation of America. The company, which was chosen to supply wide-body aircraft for the NAC, later entered into a purchase agreement with two other companies.

Christian Nhulen, a German citizen, is associated with three companies involved in the wide-body aircraft sales process. The authority has also filed a corruption case against Romanian citizen Oleg Kalistru.

This group established a company in Ireland called Hifly X with a capital of one dollar. It was found that the company was set up for the sale of aircraft. Established in 2073, the company purchased two wide-body aircraft from Airbus and sold them to Nepal Airlines Corporation for Rs 24 billion.

The CIAA has accused them of entering into a contract for the purchase of a wide-body aircraft causing loss to the Nepal Airlines Corporation and becoming a source of corruption by taking payment for it.

A corruption case has also been filed against five companies and their representatives involved in the wide-body aircraft procurement case. The CIAA has initiated a case against AAR Corporation of America and its president and CEO John Holmes, who initially signed a contract with the NAC.

A corruption case has also been filed against Germany-based German Aviation Capital and its managing director Ana Topa, Portugal's Hifly Transport Arrows and its president Paulo Mirpuri. The CIAA has also filed a case against Ireland's Highfly X, the company's directors, Gerald Thornton and Christian Nhulen. A case has also been initiated against Norton Rose of Fulbright Germany, who played a role in the wide-body aircraft purchase and sale business. The company's head of aviation, Marcus Radbruch, and senior consultant Ralph Springer have also been accused in the case.

(Updated news with details)


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