Nepal ex-crown prince’s gun brawl case gets a sequel (Lead)

December 23rd, 2010 - 6:49 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, Dec 23 (IANS) Nine days after Nepal’s controversial former crown prince Paras Bir Bikram Shah was arrested following reports that he was involved in a gun brawl with an influential minister’s son-in-law, royalists struck back Thursday, asking the apex court for an inquiry into the victim’s “questionable” activities.Dayendra Bahadur Thakuri, district chief of Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal, the only party in parliament to support the monarchy, Thursday filed a public interest litigation against Rubel Chowdhury, the son-in-law of Deputy Prime Minister Sujata Koirala, who had alleged he was threatened by a gun-toting Paras during a drinks-driven dispute in a hotel earlier this month but later retracted his allegation.

The Supreme Court admitted the petition and ordered a hearing to start Friday.

“There have been several media reports about Chowdhury, a Bangladesh national, regarding issues that are of national concern,” Thakuri told IANS.

“He has been linked by the media to a scam over buying armoured personnel carriers for the Nepal Army, which caused the state treasury a loss of over NRS 300 million. A parliament committee ordered the government to investigate the scam but it was brushed under the carpet. As a concerned citizen, I am asking the state to investigate the allegations that Chowdhury was involved in the scam.”

Thakuri, who is being supported by nine lawyers, Thursday submitted a sheaf of media reports in the Supreme Court along with his application.

The clippings also allege that Chowdhury was running other rackets with the protection of his mother-in-law. These include an international telephone call racket that bypassed government regulatory authorities and caused the state a loss of millions of rupees in revenue.

According to media reports, police had busted the racket in Kathmandu and arrested a couple of Bangladeshis but were forced to bury the investigation after political pressure.

The reports submitted by Thakuri also allege that the son-in-law was the mastermind behind a fake Nepali passport racket run by Bangladeshis.

While Chowdhury has remained silent about the allegations, they have been denied vigorously by his mother-in-law, who is also the foreign minister of Nepal.

Koirala has dismissed the reports as baseless and attempts to tarnish Chowdhury’s character along with her.

The royalist move came after Nepal’s police arrested Paras for allegedly firing shots during a brawl with Chowdhury in the upmarket Tiger Tops wildlife lodge in southern Nepal earlier this month.

For the first time in Nepal’s history, the former royal was forced to spend two days in police detention before being released on a bail of NRS 10,000.

Though the arrest came after Koirala’s Nepali Congress party pressured the government to take action, the case against the playboy former prince weakened after Chowdhury refused to lodge a formal complaint.

Instead of being charged with attempt to kill and shooting in a protected place, Paras was charged with the lesser crime of disturbing the peace.

The wayward former heir to Nepal’s throne sought to turn the brawl into a patriotic issue, saying he had tried to defend his family and country against abuses by Chowdhury.

Chowdhury has denied insulting either Paras or Nepal, saying he was married to a Nepali himself.

Married to Koirala’s daughter Melanie Jost, Chowdhury has been living in Kathmandu since his July 2006 marriage.

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at sudeshna.s@ians.in)

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