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Another member of Nepal royal family dead

world Updated: Sep 12, 2007 11:06 IST

IANS
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The malignant star stalking Nepal's royal family claimed another victim on Wednesday with an aunt of King Gyanendra, who was linked to one of the financial scandals that contributed to the king's downfall, succumbing to cancer after a long, painful battle.

Princess Helen, who died in her 70s, was the widow of prince Vasundhara, the flamboyant uncle of the king, and sister of Prabhakar Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana, a former business partner of the king.

The princess, the mother of three, is survived by two daughters, Princess Jyotsna and Princess Ketaki.

The third daughter, Princess Jayanti, died in the tragic massacre in the royal palace in 2001, which is regarded as triggering the downfall of the royals.

Princess Helen owned Hotel de l'Annapurna, one of the five-star hotels in the capital, a travel agency and a resort in Pokhara, Fishtail Lodge, which was frequently targeted by the Maoist guerrillas during the decade-old insurgency.

The princess hit the headlines two years ago after King Gyanendra staged a bloodless coup with the help of the army and began muzzling the political parties.

The king formed a commission with unprecedented powers, ostensibly to crack down on corruption.

However, the royal commission seemed more like an instrument to settle political scores when it began charging top political leaders with misappropriation of state funds without being able to make the allegations stick.

The commission began trying deposed prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and other ministers of his sacked cabinet for distributing money from the prime minister's welfare fund among party members. It also began interrogating the recipients.

However, the commission kept mum about several millions given from the fund to Princess Helen for medical treatment abroad, upon the king's request to the prime minister. Nor was the princess asked to depose before the commission.

The Supreme Court later called the commission illegal and disbanded it.

Princess Helen's death comes less than a week after Crown Prince Paras suffered a massive heart attack and had to be rushed to hospital for an emergency operation.

The princess is at least the third royal associate to suffer from cancer.

Earlier this year, a former chief of the army, Sachit Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana, who was one of the king's advisors and architects of the royal coup, died of cancer.

A third royal relative, who was recently arrested by police after a complaint of fraud, is also said to have undergone a biopsy.

Commoner Diwakar Chand, who ran a medical college in farwest Nepal without affiliation to any university and left over 100 Indian students in the lurch, had had a biopsy, police said.