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Nepal to probe army antiques sale

world Updated: Aug 10, 2011 01:45 IST
Utpal Parashar

Nepal’s parliament on Tuesday ordered a probe into an alleged sale of weapons of historical importance that were under safe-keeping by the country’s army.

The state affairs committee of the parliament started investigation after it was revealed that huge quantity of weapons were sold 11 years ago to an US firm at throwaway price.

The committee has summoned defence minister Bishnu Paudel, defence secretary Nabin Ghimire and Nepal Army chief general Chatraman Singh Gurung on Friday for questioning.

The probe follows an investigative report aired on Kantipur Television on Monday alleging that 450 tons of weapons were sold cheap at the height of the Maoist insurgency to procure sophisticated arms.

“The issue came out into the open accidentally when I was working on a script for a period film,” Bhushan Dahal, chief executive producer of Kantipur Television told Hindustan Times.

The report stated the government sold the weapons to Christian Cranmar, chief of International Military Antiques (IMA), a New Jersey-based firm claiming to be a world leader of military antiques.

It was alleged that the weapons of immense historical value were sold to Cranmar at just US $ 5 million (nearly NRs. 34 crore). Most of the weapons were over 100 years old.

The sold weapons include nearly 50,000 rifles, 150 canons, thousands of ‘khukris’ (traditional Nepali dagger) and bayonets. The first rifle made in Nepal by Gahendra Shamsher was also sold.

Although a global tender was floated, there are apprehensions that these weapons were sold at cheap rates and those involved in the deal may have got undue benefits.

“These weapons were sold like scrap in order to buy modern weapons to fight the Maoists. But the US company is now selling them to collectors at huge prices,” said Dahal.

The report says although the weapons that were part of Nepal’s rich military heritage were sold as scrap, some of them were in repairable condition and could have been kept in museums.