NRB in dilemma over retrieving Sumargi’s money

Kathmandu, January 9

The Supreme Court’s latest order to prevent a company owned by Ajeya Raj Sumargi from withdrawing money parked in a bank account has put the Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) in a dilemma, as the businessman has pulled out most of the cash based on a previous verdict issued by the apex court.

The Supreme Court yesterday directed the government to halt Sumargi-owned Muktishree Cement from withdrawing $7.5 million parked at Nepal Investment Bank. The order was issued by a double bench headed by Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana and Justice Anand Mohan Bhattrai.

The apex court issued this order quashing its previous verdict issued on December 25, which had paved the way for Muktishree Cement to withdraw $7.5 million. On December 25, a single bench headed by Justice Deepak Raj Joshee had issued an interim order instructing the NRB to allow Sumargi and his company to withdraw the money.

“Since the issuance of the December 25 order, Muktishree has withdrawn around $5.8 million. At present, only around Rs 200 million, or approximately $1.7 million, is left in the bank account,” said Bhisma Raj Dhungana, chief of the foreign exchange department at the NRB.

Before the December 25 verdict, the NRB had barred Muktishree Cement from withdrawing $7.5 million on suspicion of money laundering as the company had failed to submit required documents.

“Now, we haven’t decided on how to retrieve the money,” Dhungana said.

The NRB is currently awaiting a formal letter from the Supreme Court on its latest order. “Once the court officially informs us about its verdict, we will look for ways to retrieve the money from Sumargi,” said Dhungana.

Legal experts, however, say it would be very difficult for the government to retrieve the money from Muktishree, as the company has not done anything illegal because it had withdrawn the money as per the apex court’s interim order.

“This is the first of such cases in Nepal’s history. The government may argue the verdict issued by a double bench supersedes the one issued by single bench. Yet it will be very difficult to retrieve the money,” said a legal expert on condition of anonymity.