Financial information

Anti-money laundering agency to seek US data on Shah’s suspect money

The Money Laundering Investigation Department is preparing to write to the US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, requesting details of who sent the money on behalf of a certain Prithvi Bahadur Shah, a source said. Head of Department.

As requested by the US government agency, the Nepal Rastra Bank froze Rs 400 million which Shah had brought from the US, citing some suspicious activities.

Shah, a resident of Darna-8 Rural Municipality in Achham District, has been making headlines in recent days over money that has come in his name from the United States following reports that Finance Minister Janardan Sharma was trying to facilitate the release of the money.

So much so that Sharma, who had been accused of ignoring the deteriorating economic situation in the country, took drastic action by forming an investigative committee leading to the suspension of the governor of Nepal Rastra Bank. , Maha Prasad Adhikari. Adhikari, however, was reinstated on April 19 after an interlocutory injunction from the Supreme Court, which ordered the government not to implement the decision to investigate Adhikari.

“We are drafting a letter to be sent to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN),” said Rishiram Pokharel, information officer at the Department of Money Laundering Investigations (DMLI). “We will ask for details of who sent the money on behalf of the Shah to determine whether it was black money or not.”

According to Pokharel, the letter will be sent through the Ministry of Justice, the competent authority for sending such letters, so that any response from the US agency can be used as evidence in court.

Kantipur, the Post’s sister newspaper, first reported on April 7 that, in accordance with FinCEN’s request, the central bank had written to the DMLI to seek the source of the money contributed in Shah’s name.

The Post has yet to receive a response to a query sent to FincCen on April 13 regarding its letter to Nepal Rastra Bank, the central bank.

FinCEN is a US government agency under the Department of the Treasury that collects and analyzes financial transaction information to combat domestic and international money laundering, terrorist financing, and other financial crimes.

Stating that the money sent in Shah’s name was earned illegally, the US agency had asked the central bank’s Nepal Financial Information Unit to freeze the amount and return it to the US, according to reports. information.

Pokharel said details were also requested from the US agency through the central bank’s financial information unit, but information received through that agency will only be “a information” for investigative purposes, which cannot be produced in court as evidence.

The issue came to light after Post’s sister publication Kantipur broke the story.

After the government formed an inquiry committee on April 8 leading to the automatic suspension of central bank governor Maha Prasad Adhikari, the issue became more contentious amid accusations that Finance Minister Janardan Sharma proposed to the Cabinet to suspend Adhikari for his refusal to unfreeze Shah. money despite Sharma’s instructions.

After the Supreme Court, responding to a petition by Adhikari, ordered the government not to implement the decision, it is Sharma who now faces a moral question.

In his petition, Adhikari blamed Finance Minister Sharma for verbally pressuring him to release the suspicious money, according to the petition he had filed with the Supreme Court.

Shah has been trying for a long time to release the blocked amount in different Nepalese banks. He even claimed that the amount was only Rs 140 million, unlike the media who say Rs 400 million.

In addition to approaching Finance Minister Sharma, Shah had filed a petition with the Supreme Court on July 27 last year asking the court to issue an interim order to release the money.

He had filed the petition on behalf of World Export and Import Private Limited, on whose behalf the money was received, and other companies that Shah claims to own and operate.

Shah appealed to the Supreme Court after the DMLI, at the request of the central bank’s FIU, launched an investigation into the money deposited in Shah’s bank account.

No less than six petitions have been filed with the Supreme Court asking the court to stop the ongoing investigation into 15 bank accounts opened in the name of Shah, his relatives, his employees and various businesses.

But the Supreme Court has already denied requests for interim orders from the central bank to release the money. On April 18, the court decided to send the sixth motion for a final hearing after refusing to issue an interim order requested by Shah.

Although the matter is still pending before the Supreme Court, the DMLI decided on January 25 to unblock its bank accounts, arguing that the evidence immediately available did not establish that Shah was involved in a crime related to money laundering. money, and wrote to the banks concerned to unblock the bank accounts. money.

On January 31, the department had written to the central bank to facilitate the unfreezing process.

A senior department official, however, told the Post, on condition of anonymity, that it was a mistake to decide to unfreeze Shah’s bank accounts while the investigation was still ongoing.

“The political influence is evident in this decision,” the official said.

Pokharel said that although the DMLI asked the banks to unfreeze Shah’s accounts, the investigation into the matter was never halted.

A certain amount has been brought to Nepal from the United States, indicating that it will be used to serve tourists, according to Pokharel.

“We have requested details from relevant government agencies whether Shah’s businesses were serving tourists to earn foreign currency as Shah claimed,” Pokhrel said.