Thursday, July 05, 2007

Suspended NRB governor under judicial custody; hearing resumes Friday
The Special Court on Thursday sent the suspended Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) governor Bijayanath Bhattarai, who faces financial embezzlement charges by the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), to judicial custody.
Bhattarai is being kept at the Singha Durbar Ward Police Office until the hearing on his case resumes again on Friday.
During today’s hearing at the Special Court, the government lawyers put forward their arguments against the governor, while Bhattarai’s lawyers were unable to defend the charges due to lack of time.
The Special Court has ordered the police to bring Bhattarai to the court Friday morning.
Bhattarai, who was ordered by the Special Court last Monday (July 2) to appear before the court within 15 days to register his statement, reached the court at 9:45 this morning.
According to the registrar of the court Lekhnath Paudel, a bench of the Special Court comprising Chairman Bhupadhwoj Adhikari and members Komalnath Sharma and Cholendra Shumshere Rana had interrogated Bhattarai.
Paudel had earlier said that if the proceedings finished soon, then the court would give its verdict on the case on Thursday.
The CIAA had filed graft cases at the Special Court against Bhattarai and executive director of the NRB’s Bank Financial Institutions Regulation Department Surendra Man Pradhan for serious “financial crimes” last Friday.
The CIAA had charged Bhattarai and Pradhan of embezzling Rs 195.319 million that Nepal had received in foreign aid for financial sector reforms.
Both Bhattarai and Pradhan were automatically suspended from their posts after the CIAA filed the case.
The NRB had handed over the responsibility of the Financial Sector Reform Programme to an American company, IEF, a year ago with an agreement to provide Rs 19 million to the latter.
The CIAA has claimed in its investigation that the IEF had breached the contract by leaving after working for just around a month and that during this one-month time, the IEF had already received $6.8 m from the NRB.
However, Bhattarai has been claiming that the CIAA charges are false.

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