Explainer: What is Raj Narayan Pathak bribery case all about?

File: Raj Narayan Pathak

Until last week, Raj Narayan Pathak was a little-heard name in Nepali politics. Very few people knew that he was in line to become the chief of the constitutional anti-corruption body, Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), after next few months.

However, before Pathak’s potential promotion to the top position, he was forced to resign as soon as a video showing him admit that he took a hefty amount as bribe came out. Since then, Pathak has become a household name.

What was the case?

Though the video was leaked recently, the case began around three years ago when board members of Nepal Engineering College registered the institution as a private company. The college was established around 24 years ago as a nonprofit institution, but the board led by Lambodar Neupane converted it into a profitable company in May 2016.

Following the college’s registration as a private company, some stakeholders of the college filed a complaint at CIAA against Neupane and his team claiming they wanted to embezzle millions of rupees through the college. The complainants had presented audit reports of irregularities committed by Neupane as evidence.

Who offered the bribe?

It is apparently clear that Neupane and his team offered the bribe as they wanted that the anti-corruption body put the investigation against them on hold.

The person who reportedly shot the video told a broadsheet daily that Neupane approached one of his friends, who knew Pathak’s brother, Shubha Narayan. In conversation with that friend, Pathak demanded Rs 16.5 million.

Reportedly, Neupane supplied Rs 7.8 million to the official packing the banknotes into sweet boxes in two stages. Pathak, however, did not keep the promise about putting the investigation on hold, demanding that the remaining amount be paid at the earliest.

Then, the ‘friend’, who mediated between Nepal and Pathak got angry as the promise was not kept. Hence, he decided to expose the issue.

Meanwhile, Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal central leader Gyanendra Jha confessed to working as a mule to supply the cash to Pathak. He, however, has said that he was used in the case, and it did not amount to corruption.

Who shot the video?

The broadsheet identifies the person who captured the video in which Pathak admitted corruption as a ‘national sportsman’. He is said to run an office in Anamnagar of Kathmandu. Nothing else has been divulged.

What is the connection with the NCP?

The videographer told the broadsheet that he made Pathak accept his crime after assuring that he would keep a previous voice record about his bribery private until he becomes the CIAA chief. He had reportedly told Pathak that he had connections with the ruling Nepal Communists Party, therefore he could make sure that there would not be any obstacle on his way to the top position.

Onlinekhabar received video footage in which a Maoist cadre is negotiating with the videographer mentioning that he belongs to the party, and he has close connections with ‘the old man’ and ‘Dipesh’. He has urged the videographer to hand over the video to him, which the videographer apparently refuses.

Dipesh Pun, a youth leader of the ruling Nepal Communist Party and the son of Vice President Nanda Bahadur Pun, has confirmed that his cadre, Kailash Magar, just tried to learn about the issue after Pathak complained of his party’s involvement in the issue.

Pun revealed that the videographer is also a Maoist cadre from Sarlahi, and was involved in sports organisations of the then CPN-Maoist Centre.

The videographer, on the other hand, has told the broadsheet that he convinced the top NCP leadership, including Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli to impeach Pathak after collecting substantial evidence against him. Party leaders of the eastern region helped him get access to the PM.

The impeachment plan, however, did not materialise, as Pathak resigned the next day.

What next?

The CIAA has launched an investigation into alleged irregularities involving its former commissioner. Media reports have said the Commission is also checking if Pathak amassed other properties illegally. It is likely that the commission will file a case against Pathak.

Likewise, there are demands that the person who offered the bribe and the one who shot the video should also be punished as they also used bribery to fulfill their interests. However, few others have a few that they should be spared action; instead be used as witnesses in Pathak’s trial.

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