Nepali police charged with embezzling UN peacekeeping funds

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Nepal’s anti-corruption agency has ordered 34 Nepali police officers to appear in court to face charges of embezzling more than US$4 million during the procurement of equipment for Nepali peacekeepers working for the United Nations in Sudan.

Amongst those accused by the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) are three former police chiefs and 24 serving officers, who were suspended after the case was filed on Tuesday, according to RTT News.

The accused were yesterday told to appear in a special court within the next two weeks.
“We can’t comment on the investigation, but we are trying to manage the vacant posts as best as we can,” Nepal police spokesman Navaraj Dhakal told the BBC.

The corruption case has taken 19 months to prepare by the CIAA, after the United Nations discovered Nepali peacekeepers in Sudan had sub-standard equipment, Reuters notes.

Shankar Pokharel, Nepal’s information minister, said a government probe in December last year had found that up to 300 million rupees (about US$4 million) had been embezzled during the procurement of eight armoured vehicles to supply to Nepali blue helmets in Darfur, Reuters reported.
“The investigation found that the armoured personnel carriers (APCs) bought in 2009 were poor quality and had parts missing and were also quite old. They were bought at much cheaper prices and the remaining funds were siphoned off,” he said.

The United Nations found that the vehicles were manufactured in 1969 and had fake plates affixed to give the impression they were between 15-20 years old.

The Nepalese government became aware of the incident in 2009 after the U.N. reported that the armoured vehicles sent by Nepal were unsafe and did not meet U.N. specifications.

Nepal has 140 police officers serving as part of the 22,000-strong United Nations-African Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) – deployed to stem years of violence in western Sudan between government forces and rebels.

A Nepali parliamentary team was then sent to the troubled Darfur region in April last year, confirming the vehicles were unsafe. Consequently, a probe was established to examine the procurement process.

In January the United Nations said it was not considering repatriation of any of its FPUs (Formed Police Units) currently serving in peacekeeping operations. “The (Nepali) unit is currently fully operational using U.N.-owned equipment,” said Nick Birnback, chief of public affairs for the U.N. department of peacekeeping operations. He added that “the Nepali authorities have committed to replacing the vehicles as a matter of priority”.

The CIAA has also charged two contractors responsible for supplying the armoured personnel carriers (APCs) in what is one of the largest corruption cases to be brought to court in Nepal, the BBC reports. One of the contractors, Briton Michael Rider from the company Assured Risks, said that his company was not responsible for supplying faulty equipment. He said that it had been badly maintained.
“The problem in Sudan occurred because the vehicles were left unattended near the salty waters of Port Sudan and in extreme temperatures for a long time, without any daily, weekly and monthly service which is required on any APC,” he said.



The CIAA has asked for sentences of up to 13 years for those found guilty.