Commission formed to investigate recent gold smuggling casesThe four-member commission, led by former High Court Chief Judge Dilli Raj Acharya, has been given three months to submit its findings.
After several weeks of negotiations, the government on Sunday formed a high-level commission to conduct a detailed investigation into the recent incidents of gold smuggling in the country.
The commission led by Dilli Raj Acharya, a former High Court chief judge, was constituted after an agreement among the major parties over its jurisdiction.
Despite several rounds of negotiations over the last few weeks, second-rung leaders across parties had failed to reach a consensus on the commission owing to differences over its jurisdiction.
“A four-member commission has been constituted based on an agreement among the major parties,” Minister for Communications and Information Technology Rekha Sharma, also the government’s spokesperson, told media persons.
Former Additional Inspector General of Police Sahakul Thapa, former joint secretaries Kishor Jung Karki and Prem Raj Joshi are the other commission members.
After he returned from a two-week-long foreign trip on Saturday, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal started negotiations with the major parties, particularly the main opposition CPN-UML, for the formation of the commission.
According to the agreement, the commission will investigate the incidents of gold smuggling concealed inside electronic cigarettes and motorcycle brake shoes. It will also recommend changes in the existing laws and the investigation mechanism to control the smuggling of the precious metal. It is also mandated to study the investigation reports related to the smuggling cases and conduct further investigations if necessary.
According to the agreement, the commission will have three months to complete its job.
The UML, which had been resorting to House obstruction demanding a fair investigation of the smuggling incidents, withdrew its protests following a two-point agreement with the ruling parties over forming the panel.
With the agreement on August 22, the main opposition had agreed to allow the proceedings of the House of Representatives and the National Assembly.
As per the first point of agreement, the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB), which has been studying the gold haul, would continue to have the authority to prosecute all those involved in the crime.
At the time, the parties had agreed to form an independent and neutral inquiry on September 22 to investigate repeated cases of gold smuggling thoroughly. The parties agreed that the commission to be formed as per the Commission of Inquiry Act would submit its recommendations addressing the necessary measures to check the crime, and also a blueprint for investigating such cases.
However, the probe commission hadn’t been formed as the ruling and opposition parties remained sharply divided over its jurisdiction.
The ruling parties had maintained that the commission would recommend revising the laws and changes in the existing mechanism for investigating such crimes if necessary. It can also study the CIB’s report and recommend further investigation if any lapses are found.
The UML, however, claimed that it was not convinced that the police investigation has reached the masterminds of gold smuggling. It had been demanding the commission be allowed to conduct a fresh investigation if necessary. Its demand has been addressed through Sunday’s agreement.
“The commission has been constituted in the spirit of a deal from August 22,” Mahesh Bartaula, the UML’s whip, told the Post. “We hope the commission traces the masterminds behind the smuggling.”
The UML claims that the CIB’s investigation has spared the political hands behind the smuggling.
On December 25 last year, the airport customs seized electronic cigarettes used to smuggle gold concealed in them.
The police later found that the former Speaker and CPN (Maoist Centre) vice-chair Krishna Bahadur Mahara and his son were in regular contact with a Chinese national allegedly smuggling gold through imported consignments of electronic cigarettes.
Images wherein the alleged smuggler was seen with former Vice President Nanda Bahadur Pun and Maoist Centre leader Barsha Man Pun were widely circulated on social media. However, except Mahara's son, no other person has been interrogated.
UML, the second-largest party in Parliament, had threatened to bar the House from taking up its agenda if the commission was not constituted. The House met on Sunday.