The Central Intelligence Bureau (CIB) of Nepal Police has made public four people who were arrested on Tuesday in connection with the Baluwatar land grab scam.
Those arrested are promoter of Bhatbhateni Supermarket Min Bahadur Gurung, former election commissioner Sudheer Kumar Shah, Gopal Karki and Dharma Prasad Gautam.
The CIB had arrested seven people on Tuesday morning in connection with the case but released three of them -- Kaladhar Deuja, Surendra Man Kapali and Hupendra Mani KC – later the same day after making them complete the paperwork as they were found to have obtained stay orders from the Supreme Court against their arrest.
Deuja was the chief of the Dilli Bazaar Land Revenue Office then, while Gautam, Kapali, Karki and KC were government employees at the Land Revenue Office.
According to Senior Superintendent of Police Dinesh Acharya at the CIB, they are found to have initially transferred 112 ropanis of the land at Baluwatar in their names through forgery of government documents.
Investigations have shown that 29 ropanis of the land have been transferred in the names of Gurung, his family, relatives and his company’s shareholders, Acharya said.
Gurung has been arrested for the second time in connection with the case. The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) had filed a corruption case against him at the Special Court charging him with embezzling Rs 392.77 million in the scam. He was released on a bail of Rs 30 million.
Police also arrested Gautam, former section officer at the Land Revenue Office, on the charge of involvement in the scam as investigations have shown three ropanis of land transferred in his name.
They have also found 5 ropani 2 paisa of land transferred in the name of former election commissioner Shah’s wife Urmila.
The CIB investigation did not find any land transferred in Karki’s name, but he has been accused of disappearing some files from the Land Revenue Office. “Maybe it will come out later whether he took money or not. He played a role to disappear files,” Acharya said.
The CIB has said that 143 ropanis of land on the Lalita Niwas premises at Baluwatar have been transferred illegally in the names of different individuals.
Police have taken the four arrested to the Kathmandu District Court for extension of their custody on the charge of forging government documents.
The CIB had submitted its report to the District Government Attorney’s Office (DGAO), Kathmandu, in December 2021 after completing its investigation into the case. But the DGAO had returned the report instructing the CIB to carry out further investigation.
Additional Inspector General Kiran Bajracharya said that they are investigating the case by collecting evidence again.
“Evidence has been collected after a long investigation, there’s no question of not registering a case,” Bajracharya said. “Maneuverings are possible, but we have enough evidence to give answers.”
Bajracharya said that they are carrying out investigations on the basis of the statute of limitations in the Civil Code, adding that statute of limitations does not apply to this case.
CPN-UML leader and former finance minister Bishnu Paudel was also dragged into the controversy earlier as eight annas out of the 113 ropanis have been transferred in the name of his son Navin.
But Paudel and Supreme Court (SC) Justice Kumar Regmi were not charged in the scam after they agreed to return the land in the names of Paudel's son Navin and Regmi respectively.
Asked whether Paudel would come under investigation or not, Bajracharya said, “We have started the investigation. We’ll tell you about anything that happens as the investigation moves ahead.”
She added that they did not face any political pressure while investigating the case.