The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) has said that it is launching confidential investigations against over 1,000 high-profile individuals, including politicians and business persons, who might have accumulated disproportionate amounts of assets through illegal means.
Speaking at parliament’s Good Governance Committee meeting on Friday, CIAA chief Lokman Singh Karki said that the anti-graft constitutional watchdog is looking into hundreds of cases where disproportionate amounts of assets have been accumulated through illegal means.
“There are grievances from some quarters that the CIAA is not moving against high-profile individuals and only running after ‘small fry’, but this is not true at all,” Karki said adding, “We are currently seriously investigating over 1,000 high-profile individuals, including lawmakers.”
“Interestingly, during our investigations we find only Rs 500, Rs 1,000 or Rs 1,500 in the personal bank accounts of such individuals. Moreover, they are found to be living in rented premises. So it’s an uphill task initiating serious action against them.”
Karki said that it has become a big challenge for the CIAA to find the huge amounts amassed by such individuals.
“A new trend has developed in recent days of almost all those who earn big money in illicit ways not putting the money in their own bank accounts. Where are they hiding it?” Karki wondered aloud.
He suspects that such high-profile individuals may have been sending money to foreign countries or keeping it with kin and near and dear ones. “The accumulated money may have been invested in the private sector under someone else’s name,” he opined.
CIAA chief Karki informed the lawmakers that they are doing their best to curb corruption in the country. “More than 60 percent of the corruption takes place in the private sector. Unfortunately, we cannot look into cases in this sector. So far, we are only investigating the 40 percent of corruption that takes place in the public sector,” Karki said. He also asked lawmakers to support the CIAA in its ongoing battle against corruption.
During the meeting, lawmakers of various parties expressed the view that the CIAA was only running after ‘small fry’ instead of investigating alleged corruption cases amounting to millions.
“Why is it that only low-ranking government employees are being victimized by the CIAA and the high-profile ones are not touched at all? We suspect the high-profiles are being protected by the CIAA itself.” lawmaker Ramchandra Yadav said.
Lawmaker Haribol Rai opined that the CIAA has been losing most of the cases it files at the Special Court, given the lack of evidence. “Prosecuting someone and filing charges at court should not in itself be taken as achievements by the CIAA,” he said.
Lawmaker Kamal Thapa praised the CIAA for its ongoing drive against corruption, saying that nobody should obstruct the CIAA in its mission.
The meeting has directed the CIAA to submit a progress report every four months. “While investigating alleged irregularities at national pride projects among others, the CIAA should not hinder projects that are already under construction,” reads the committee’s directives.
The meeting directed the anti-graft body to systematize the complaints filed by the public, taking goals and priorities into account. While looking into irregularities in the academic sector such as the universities, the investigations should be based on facts, the directives further read.
Likewise, the meeting directed the government to give full shape to the CIAA at the earliest. Three posts of CIAA commissioner have been lying vacant for years now. The committee has also asked the government to send to it within one month the amendment proposals to anti-graft laws that have been forwarded by the CIAA. Proposed amendments to laws such as the CIAA Act-1992 and Corruption Prevention Act-2002 are awaiting Cabinet approval.
The committee has decided to hold meetings with the prime minister and other senior government officials to curb policy-level corruption. “If ministers and secretaries feel that they may get dragged into a corruption case over any matter they tend to forward such matters to the cabinet for endorsement as the CIAA cannot investigate any cabinet decisions. We want to end this,” committee Chairman Rai said.
As per the existing law, the CIAA cannot raise questions with regard to decisions taken by the Cabinet.