Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) has collected the financial details of 28 Nepalis who have been named in the Panama Papers as possessing offshore wealth in various tax havens as it begins a probe into their hidden holdings.
The leaked records reveal how the world’s rich and powerful hide their millions, and among them are a bunch of Nepali high rollers. The Financial Information Unit (FIU) of the central bank has received boxes of files containing their financial details from banks and financial institutions.
“As we are yet to establish other details about the persons mentioned in the leak, we were able to send just the names to the BFIs to ask for their financial details,” said said Rishikesh Bhatta, head of the FIU. “As we had to use broad parameters to pursue the investigation, we got a massive number of files from the BFIs.”
The FIU is presently conducting a comprehensive investigation of the documents received from the BFIs. “We can’t prove anything only on the basis of the information provided by the banks,” said Bhatta. “We will now take the help of various government agencies to find out other details.”
The FIU plans to work with the Department of Money Laundering Investigation (DMLI) to dig deeper into the matter. The DMLI has formed a technical committee to investigate the Nepalis that appeared in the leak. The panel includes representatives from different government agencies like the FIU, Central Investigation Bureau and Inland Revenue Department, among others. “The issue has grabbed our attention, and we have started an investigation,” said Kishor Jung Karki, director of the DMLI.
While some of the names in the leak match the names of well known business figures in Nepal, the challenge for the authorities is to ascertain the identity of the persons in the list. Given the broad parameters of the investigation, the DMLI is unlikely to get close to the actual Nepali business figures with offshore investments, according to an NRB official. “I don’t think the DMLI will be able to identify and summon any Nepali named in the leak.”
While offshore investments might just be a moral issue in other parts of world, for Nepali it is illegal. Nepali law prohibits its citizens from investing in foreign countries unless such investment is made with money earned abroad. Nepalis stashing money away in foreign banks and making investments in various forms is nothing new as a series of past leaks have exposed. Although government officials have long known about such illegal investments, nothing substantial has been done about them.
Source: The Kathmandu Post