Special Court acquits former ministers as it convicts civil servants on Lalita Niwas land scam

Kathmandu, Feb 15: The Special Court has acquitted three ministers in Lalita Niwas land grab scam while convicting some officials including government secretaries and middlemen involved in the land scam as the court gave its verdict on the case on Thursday.

The court gave clean chit to former deputy prime minister Bijay Kumar Gachchhadar, former ministers Chandra Deo Joshi and Dambar Shrestha. It, however, convicted former chief of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) Deep Basnyat, former government secretary Chhabi Raj Pant. They have been given a two-year sentence and ordered to pay a fine worth Rs8.047 million.

On August 27, 2023, the District Attorney Office, Kathmandu had prosecuted 310 individuals, including former ministers and incumbent and retired top bureaucrats, for their involvement in the forgery of government documents in the scam.

Two individuals, Shobhakant Dhakal and Ram Kumar Subedi, who were involved in the land grab scam as middlemen between the government officials, politicians and buyers, have been ordered to serve two years in prison. Also, Bhatbhateni Supermarket owner Min Bahadur Gurung, who bought the controversial land, has been convicted for the transaction.

Former government secretary Dineshhari Adhikari was declared innocent by the court in the case.

The court also declared Lalita Niwas, which covers some 300 ropanis (around 15 hectares) of land and includes the prime minister’s residence, Nepal Rastra Bank central office and some other residences of key government officials, as government property.

Read: What is the land scam that has shaken the government’s seat all about?

On February 5, 2020, the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority filed corruption charges against 175 individuals in relation to the infamous land grab scam.

However, the constitutional anti-graft body had spared a number of key people including former prime ministers Madhav Kumar Nepal and Baburam Bhattarai, even though it admitted that the decisions to illegally transfer the government land into private hands were taken during their tenures.

The CIAA had said that the former prime ministers were not implicated as the decisions were the Cabinet’s policy decisions, over which it has no jurisdiction.

The government was forced to record the statements of former prime ministers after the Supreme Court on August 6, 2023, ordered that they too be investigated.

– Kathmandu Post

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