4 sent to custody, Rs 2.5 million bail sought from other three
POKHARA, Sept 21: The Kaski District Court on Thursday sent 21 persons accused in the Pokhara land scam to judicial custody and also ordered three others accused in the scam to submit a bail amount of Rs 2.5 million each.
A single bench of Hem Raj Panta sent Aashmaya Lama, Ram Chandra Bhandari, Pitambar Bhandari and Ishwar Karki to the judicial custody. While Lama disguised as Shanta Rana, the real land owner, Karki bought the land from her. The Bhandari duo had forged Rana´s citizenship certificate, land ownership certificate and other documents.
Similarly, Babita Karki, Buddhi Bahadur Karki and Bhim Dev Sharma were sent to custody after they failed to deposit a bail amount of Rs 2.5 million each. While Babita has been accused of buying land from the fake owner, Karki and Sharma abetted the fraud by abusing their positions. Karki is a staffer at Land Revenue Office of Kaski while Sharma is the ward secretary of Pokhara-6.
Anil Khanal, a staffer at the Pokhara branch of Rastriya Banijya Bank (RBB), and Lama´s daughter Sushma, other two accused in the land scam, have been ordered to deposit Rs 500,000 and Rs 100,000 respectively as bail amounts. Sushma has been sent to custody after she failed to submit the bail amount. However, Khanal was released after he deposited the bail Thursday evening.
According to Basudeb Neupane, a staffer at the district court, only nine of the 21 accused were present during the hearing on Thursday. Twelve others are still absconding. "The court has asked them to surrender within the next 30 days," Neupane said.
Bhoj Raj Bhandari, Dilli Raman Poudel, Shalik Ram Dhakal and Narayan Prasad Sharma are among the 12 absconding. While Poudel allegedly played a key role in forging documents, others played their parts by deliberately overlooking the fraud.
Lama, who was initially believed to be the kingpin of the scam, has turned out to be a poor and illiterate village woman. Originally from Nuwakot district, Lama had been eking out a living by selling vegetables in Bhaktapur. The police now believe that the others accused used her.
Rana, who recently returned from the US, had lodged a written complaint at the District Police Office of Kaski on August 16 after learning that her land, which is now worth around Rs 30 million, was already sold. On August 21, the police had arrested eight people allegedly involved in the scam. A few days later, one more suspect was arrested.