Nepal’s only international airport hostage to business interests
In December 2018, PM KP Oli declared that Tribhuvan International Airport would be made a “boutique airport.” However, a 5-storey building in front of the airport, built not just against ’boutique’ aesthetics but also against regulations, makes a mockery of his declaration.
The building is constructed by ‘Rasuwa KD Joint Venture’ company, owned by controversial businessman Deepak Malhotra, alleged gold smuggler Bimal Poddar, and MP from Rasuwa, Mohan Acharya. The company was supposed to construct a parking lot, a modern park, a waiting area, a playpen for children, and other infrastructure. But except for a tall building and a parking lot that is highly inconvenient to arriving passengers, nothing else has been constructed.
After much protest from airport officials themselves, an investigation committee was formed under the airport’s Deputy Director, Jagannath Niraula. The committee submitted its report in April 2019. The report concluded that the building had been constructed against agreements and should be demolished if needed, and that its impacts on airport security should be investigated.
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But more than a month later, the recommendations have not been implemented. “We know the building goes against regulations, but what can we do if the person we are supposed to investigate hobnobs with the Prime Minister?” says an engineer who did not want to be a part of the investigation committee. He was referring to Malhotra, who is seen accompanying PM KP Oli on many international visits.
Malhotra’s company had started enjoying impunity after Lokman Singh Karki became the head of Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of in April 2013. Anyone who dared question his company was called for questioning by the CIAA instead. But even two and a half years after Karki was deposed, Malhotra’s influence continues to grow stronger through his associations with even higher political connections. He evades investigation despite being accused of VAT corruption and gold smuggling.
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