Nepal’s biggest case of institutional corruption, popular as Sudan scam, saw a courtroom finish on Monday with three former police chiefs convicted for roles in purchase of below par armed personnel carriers (APCs) for an UN peacekeeping mission in Sudan.
The scam had tarnished Nepal’s reputation after UN termed the APCs used by Nepal Police peacekeepers ineffective and dangerous. The special court handed two year jail terms to Om Bikram Rana, Hem Bahadur Gurung and Ramesh Chand Thakuri and fined them millions. In June last year, Thakuri was removed from his post and made security advisor to the PM.
Two others Michael Rider, director of Assured Risks, the UK supplier of the sub-standard APCs, and its Nepal agent, Sambhu Bharati were also pronounced guilty. The court however let off 31 other police officers accused in the scam.
The court held that the accused officers abused their positions and embezzled millions of rupees by making payments for the faulty APCs without checking their quality.
The scam was worth nearly NRs 29 crore (around R18 crore) and the officers were fined according to their involvement. The British supplier, its director and Nepal agent were also sentenced to jail and imposed fines totalling NRs 710 million (R444 million).
Although irregularities in procurement of the APCs came to light soon after the 2007deal, the matter came to court last June with the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority filing a charge sheet against 34 police officers and the suppliers.
Soon all senior cops—retired, serving and suspended—whose names figured in the charge sheet were arrested. They were released after furnishing bail amounts worth millions with help of family and bank ‘loans’.
While the 31 acquitted officers are a relieved lot, Rana, Gurung and Thakuri will have to worry about filing appeals in SC. They have been given 35 days for that. Though they are free, they will be arrested if the SC refuses to alter the special court’s decision.