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Gyanendra stashed away $200m: scribe

Nepal’s ousted king is thought to have close to $200 million stashed away inside the country and even more abroad, says an author.
By HT Correspondent | AFP, Kathmandu
UPDATED ON JUN 10, 2008 10:50 PM IST

Nepal’s ousted king is thought to have close to $200 million stashed away inside the country and even more abroad, according to an author who has probed royal finances.

Surya Thapa, a journalist who has written three books on the Himalayan royals, said former king Gyanendra is unlikely to feel any financial squeeze as a commoner, and that state accountants will have a tough time if they want to confiscate his wealth.

“According to my research, he has around $195 million invested in around 35 companies in Nepal and may have transferred more (funds) abroad,” said Thapa.

“Nobody knows how much money he has outside Nepal and there is no way anyone can find out,” he said. The author said Nepal’s rulers have a history of putting their cash abroad and doing their best to conceal it.

Nearly three decades ago, “the royal family was very visibly investing in land, property, companies and industry,” Thapa said. But a referendum in 1980 giving the royals a slim vote of approval made them fear for their future.

“The vote alarmed them so they started investing very silently” through third parties such as loyal supporters, he said.

“Gyanendra has been good at concealing his investments,” said Thapa, who did his research by tracking land registration documents linked to the royals and interviewed scores of royal business associates, pro-royal politicians and palace workers.

His comments came as a government official said that Gyanendra was refusing to cooperate with a committee set up to audit royal property and that his diamond and ruby-adorned crown was yet to be recovered.

Gyanendra has been given until Thursday to vacate the palace, but is likely to leave on Wednesday, home minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula said on Tuesday.

Nepal’s new republican government, which includes hardened Maoists who fought for a decade to sack the king, has not ruled out further investigating Gyanendra’s personal fortune.

“We haven’t decided what we want to do regarding Gyanendra’s personal finances. We might investigate later,” peace minister Ram Chandra Poudel said.

The palace secretariat declined to make any comment when asked about the king’s wealth.

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