Oli moots one-time amnesty to money launderers

Kathmandu, January 29

CPN-UML Chair KP Sharma Oli, who is tipped to be the next prime minister, said it should be debated whether one-time amnesty should be given to those who have laundered money but want to invest money in the productive sector.

Oli said this while addressing a programme organised by the party to felicitate newly elected office bearers of Nepal Chamber of Commerce today.

He said the current Anti-Money Laundering Act did not allow people to invest hidden money in productive sectors.

“It’s like keeping a trap at the entrance of a mouse hole and expecting the mouse to come out of the hole,” he said. Oli also proposed to allow people to declare their hidden money and fix a cut-off date for the same.

“Making people forfeit money for which they do not have a known source cannot work.” Oli also said people would bring out hidden money if a soft policy was adopted.  “Otherwise the money could be used for unproductive things such as ‘gambling at casino’, he added.

Oli also requested industrialists to ponder the issue. “You can suggest whether the current legal provisions are right or if there is anything that needs to be changed,” Oli said.

He also said that there are some complicated banking systems. “A citizen is compelled to disclose the source of income even for depositing and withdrawing Rs 1 million. This is uncalled for,” he added. He also said that the new government would remove red-tape and maintain transparency to ensure investment-friendly environment.

Newly elected chair of Chambers of Commerce Rajesh Kaji Shrestha told The Himalayan Times that industrialists want contradictions and hurdles in laws removed to invest. He also said that they have no comment on the money laundering issue. “It’s up to the government to take a decision on money laundering laws, but our concern is focused on creating a friendly environment for big investments,” he said.

Nepal Rastra Bank Spokesperson Narayan Paudel said that anti- money laundering laws were necessary to restrict illegally earned money.

“If the government gives one-time amnesty to money launderers even for short time it could invite financial anarchy and illegally earned wealth would get legal

status” he added.

Former NRB governor Yuba Raj Khatiwada said anti-money laundering provisions were not only the concern of a single country but the entire world. He also said that since Nepal was party to many international conventions relating to anti-money laundering provisions, the laws could not be changed easily as per the government’s wish.

Spokesperson for the Office of Attorney General Sanjv Raj Regmi said in the past too, a tax-waiver policy of the government was heavily criticised and challenged in the court. “When the government decided to allow people to invest their undisclosed source of money in hydropower projects, it failed to have positive impact,” he added. He said the main motive of the money laundering act was to restrict the funding of terrorist groups and their activities.