An investigative report prepared by journalists Krishna Acharya and Ramu Sapkota for the Centre for Investigative Journalism-Nepal has revealed that 16 Nepali investors, including sole Nepali billionaire Binod Kumar Chaudhary, have shell companies in tax haven countries.

'Pandora Papers', an investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, in collaboration with more than 140 media houses around the world, revealed that two big business companies of Nepal - Chaudhary Group and Golchha Organisation - have shell companies in tax haven countries.

The leak claims that Chaudhary opened companies in the British Virgin Islands under his name and in the names of his wife Sarika Devi and three sons Nirvana, Varun, and Rahul.

Similarly, Lokmany Golchha, and his two late brothers, Chandra Kumar Golchha and Hitesh Golchha, have a company named Flatwood Limited in BVI. Ajeya Sumargi Parajuli, Arjun Prasad Sharma, and Kishor Rana - whose names were revealed in CIJ's NepaLeaks investigation - have been operating companies from tax havens, according to Pandora leaks.

Pandora Papers also claim that offshore companies have been operating from tax havens under the names of Rajendra Shakya from Pulchowk, Lalitpur, and Nepali businessmen Suhrid Raj Ghimire, Purushottam Poudyal, and Sudhir Mittal from Gyaneshwor, Janak Kumar Basnet, British citizen Janak Daniel Basnet, and Indian citizen Radhe Shyam Saraf.

Responding to the allegations, the Chaudhary group said they had not violated Nepali or foreign laws.

'As stated by my father and chairman of CG, Cinnovation, and all our group companies comply with all applicable laws, including Nepali laws applicable to foreign investment.

Hence, we have no further comments and/or views on the investigations mentioned in your email below,' said Rahul Chaudhary.

Lokmanya Golchha and Chandra Kumar Golchha told THT that they did not have any company in BVI.

Lokmanya said his Nairobi-based Chandaria Group had jointly invested in their company in Nepal and it was possible that the same company might also have investment in BVI.

"Chandaria Group has invested billiions of rupees in almost 25 countries and it is possible that they might also own company (ies) in BVI," Lokmanya said. Other Nepalis named in the Pandora leak could not be contacted for comments.

According to the Act Restricting Investment Abroad-2021, no Nepali citizen can invest in any company abroad or open an account in a foreign bank. "The person shall be liable to punishment or a fine equal to the amount invested abroad or imprisonment for six months or both," if a person violates the Act.

A version of this article appears in the print on October 5, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.