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Aircraft purchase: Lawmakers call for joint investigation committee

Lawmakers on Tuesday seconded the proposition of Nepali Congress MP Amresh Kumar Singh on forming a joint parliamentary committee to probe into alleged irregularities in the purchase of two Airbus A-330 jets by Nepal Airlines Corporation.

Singh’s suggestion to form a panel, comprising representatives from both lower and upper house, to inquire into the case was approved by other MPs, including those representing the ruling Nepal Communist Party, in Tuesday’s House session.

 Singh claimed that he had some damning pieces of evidence to prove that more than Rs 6 billion was embezzled in the aircraft purchase deal.

“Several provisions of the Public Procurement Act were violated during the aircraft procurement process. It has been discovered that the initial MoU to purchase the aircraft were made with a US-based company, but the procurement was made through an Irish shell firm company set up immediately after the signing of the MoU with the paid-up capital of only $1 dollar,” the NC lawmaker told Parliament.

The NAC had entered an agreement with the US-based firm on January 26, 2017 and the Irish company was registered on February 21, 2017, according to Singh.

“First they signed the MoU and then registered a company whose sole purpose was to sell the aircraft to Nepal Airlines. The company was dissolved after the deal was completed. It is evident that a huge corruption has taken place in the aircraft procurement process,” said Singh. He said that Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli should resign over the scandal, claiming that his government was equally responsible in the dubious deal.  Singh also pointed out to the discrepancy in the weight of the aircraft.

“The US-based firm had mentioned in the agreement that each aircraft would weigh 242 metric tonnes, but the actual weight of the plane was 230 tonnes. After decreasing the weight, each aircraft will lose at least 50 seats, which means a monthly loss of millions of rupees,” he said.

Two parliamentary committees are probing into the aircraft purchase deal. A sub-committee formed by Parliamentary Account Committee is expected to submit its report on Wednesday.

The report, according to sources, mentions that around Rs 4 billion was embezzled while procuring the two-wide body aircraft while recommending the government to suspended the officials involved in decision-making process.

Another panel formed by the International and Human Rights Committee of Parliament is also inquiring into the case.


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