Yoga guru Ramdev and his Patanjali Ayurved group were embroiled in a controversy in Nepal on Monday after the media reported he had invested more than Rs 150 crore in the country without approval from government agencies.
Ramdev and Patanjai Ayurved ignored provisions of a key law, Foreign Investment and Technology Transfer Act, and did not seek mandatory approval from the Investment Board Nepal or Industrial Promotion Board, according to Kantipur Daily, the country’s largest selling newspaper.
Patanjali Yogpeeth (Nepal) Trust, described as a non-profit, too was registered in Nepal in violation of local laws, the report said. It added Nepal has no provisions for foreign investments by non-profit companies and all such investments were “illegal”.
The report further alleged Ramdev had not taken approval from the department of industry before setting up ventures in Nepal and Patanjali Ayurved was registered in the name of businessman Upendra Mahato, founding president of the Non-Resident Nepali Association, and his wife, Samata Prasad.
Ramdev, who is very popular in Nepal and whose yoga session last week was attended by the top political leadership, including the president and prime minister, dismissed the allegations and said he had not yet started investing in Nepal.
“I do not have any investment in Patanjali Ayurved, Nepal,” he said in a statement. “If I am going to invest in Nepal, I will take approval from the Nepal government.
All investments in the Patanjali Arurved, Nepal (were) made by Upendra Mahato and his wife Samata,” he added.
It is mandatory for a foreign national or firm investing or setting up a factory in Nepal to get approval from the Industrial Promotion Board chaired by the industry ministry or the Investment Board Nepal chaired by the prime minister, the Kantipur Daily reported.
After Ramdev recently announced in Kathmandu that he planned to make more investments, government officials conducted a study to ascertain whether he had taken approval. The daily quoted government officials as saying that it was found Ramdev and his associations had not taken consent or approval from any government agencies.
When Ramdev arrived in Kathmandu last Tuesday, he reportedly told Nepalese businessmen during an interaction that he had invested more than Rs 150 crore in the country. These investments included a Patanjali Ayurved unit that was inaugurated last Wednesday by President Bidhya Devi Bhandari and Ramdev.
Ramdev had also announced he would invest another Rs 10,000 crore in Nepal over ten years and create 20,000 jobs.
The Kantipur Daily alleged Ramdev’s non-profit was registered in Nepal because of “political pressure” and the yoga guru was one of its five shareholders. After officials refused to register it, former industry minister Rajendra Mahato, a prominent Madhesi leader, and industry secretary Janakraj Joshi pressured junior officials to register Patanjali Ayurved and Patanjali Yoghpeeth as non-profits on October 7, 2007, the report said.
During the registration by the Company Register, the passports of Ramdev, his aide Acharya Balkrishna, Rajendra Das and Rajendra Singh were used as “affidavits”. A Nepali national, Saligram Singh, was the fifth shareholder in both firms.
Former minister Mahato told the daily that the process began after Ramdev announced he would open a branch of Patanjali in Nepal. “Then I discussed the proposal with my staff in the ministry. I do not know the nitty-gritty of the process. Completion of the process is the job of bureaucrats, not me,” he said.
Ramdev said in his statement that a majority of shares in Patanjali Nepal would be taken over by Patanjali India. “All profits that Patanjali will make here will be invested in Nepal, they will not be taken back to India,” he said.
“I have been fighting my entire life against black money, corruption and financial irregularities…Our identity is based on financial transparency so that there is no chance of having such illegal investment or doing any kind of financial irregularities as reported in the media,” he added.