Nepal royals used nature fund to party and travel

March 26th, 2008 - 12:48 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, March 26 (IANS) There was rampant misuse by Nepal’s royal family of money from a nature conservation fund earlier headed by the king and the crown prince, says a probe report. The report comes just two weeks before the election that will decide the fate of Nepal’s King Gyanendra and his crown.

The King Mahendra National Trust for Nature Conservation, which was earlier headed by the king and the crown prince, was massively exploited by the royal family, a probe committee has found after examining expenses incurred in the last seven years.

Millions were spent on travels abroad and lavish parties, says the report of the committee that was formed after complaints of irregularities.

Money meant for boosting Nepal’s conservation efforts was instead spent by Queen Komal when she went to Britain for her annual health checkups; by King Gyanendra during his foreign trips during his army-backed absolute rule; and by Crown Prince Paras who went to Austria and France with his wife and became embroiled in what became known as the rhino diplomacy.

The heir to Nepal’s endangered throne was sent to Austria in a bid to improve Nepal’s strained ties with western governments after King Gyanendra toppled the government and seized power through a bloodless coup.

The ostensible reason for Paras’ trip was to hand over a pair of one-horned rhinos, an endangered species that is bred in Nepal, to a Vienna zoo.

Since King Gyanendra’s ascension to the throne after the assassination of his brother, the then king Birendra, in 2001, the nature trust spent over Nepali Rs.1 million on alcohol and hotel bills.

Three laptops, a computer, an air compressor and four vehicles were carted away by staff of Nirmal Niwas, the residence of the crown prince, and never returned.

The probe also found that after the crown prince was named in a hit and run accident, in which a popular folk singer was killed, money from the trust fund was used to repair Paras’ damaged vehicle.

“Much of the money released by the fund was used for entertaining the royal family,” the secretary of the trust, Bimal Kumar Baniya, told the media.

There is no record of how huge sums were spent from the fund’s resources.

The Nepal ambassador to Saudi Arabia had requested for a large sum of money when the queen visited Saudi Arabia.

After the fall of King Gyanendra’s regime in 2006 due to a national uprising, the new government that came to power began stripping the king of his privileges.

The king, once regarded as an incarnation of a Hindu deity, is now supposed to pay tax, has had his legal immunity axed and will face an election on April 10 that will, for the first time, allow voters to decide if they want to keep the monarchy or change over to a democratic republic.

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