Businessman in trouble because of false ‘Money Laundering’ news

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 Kathmandu– As the consequence of the news published by Centre for Investigative Journalism (CIJ) Nepal titled ’55 Nepalese invested in offshore companies,’ some businessmenen are facing serious problems. Some of them have experienced problems even with their businesses abroad.

They have complained that such news stories could discourage foreign investment in Nepal as well. CIJ had published the story in January this year based on a global investigation carried out by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). Dr Niraj Govinda Shrestha, a Non-Resident Nepali businessman, has businesses over various countries across the globe.

As one of the businessmen named in the story published by the CIJ, he submitted a formal petition at the Nepal Press Council saying that the said story was baseless and resulted into severe personal, social and business loss to him. According to Dr Shrestha, because of the media reports, his daughter and son-in-law, who run their own business in the UK, had to face financial losses due to unfounded allegations against him.

He said that CIJ never contacted him before the news was published. Response of the CIJ and Nepal Press Council As instructed by the Nepal Press Council, CIJ has now published Shrestha’s comments along with the news in their website. Kishore Shrestha, acting Chairperson of Nepal Press Council, said that the Council has reminded the CIJ to ensure basic principles of journalism by giving an opportunity to the people mentioned in the news to provide their side of the story.

"In his petition, Dr Shrestha had raised the issue of code of ethics of media and we have asked the CIJ to publish the petition filed by him.” In their website, the CIJ has written that Dr Shrestha has denied any involvement in the money laundering activities. The CIJ has quoted him as saying that sources of all his investment in Nepal were legitimate. “We never wrote that Dr Shrestha has not disclosed sources of his investment in Nepal,” CIJ said.

What the govt agencies say? Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB), Department of Money Laundering Investigation (DMLI) and Central Investigation Bureau of Nepal Police (CIB), all three agencies have given clean chit to Dr Shrestha.

They have said that there is no complaint registered against Dr Shrestha in connection with money laundering charges. Jiban Prakash Sitaula, Director General of the DMLI, said, “There was no case against Mr. Shrestha in the past as well.” CIB has also said the same.

Chintamani Shivakoti, Deputy Governor of the NRB, said, “We have not received any complaint against Mr. Shrestha and there is no pending investigation against him.”

Problems in investing in Nepal The government of Nepal organised the Nepal Investment Summit in March this year with a view to attract foreign investment. Businessmen have, however, complained that false reports regarding investment by NRNs and other investors could jeopardise the prospect of attracting foreign investment into the country.

“Foreign investors today have a number of options before them and countries are competing among themselves to attract foreign investors.

So, media has to be responsible not to publish any unsubstantiated news reports that could discourage or even harass prospective foreign investors,” said Dr Shrestha adding, “I would like to request friends in media to contact me before publishing any reports related to my businesses.”

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