By Om Tat Sat,
Right when the country was abuzz about of bailout of Rabi Lamichhane, the Supreme Court on Bhadra 9, 2076 issued a judgment that the tax did not have to be paid. The general impression among the people about NCell tax scandal has been that of dishonesty, crony capitalism and crony communism, collusion between the businessmen, politicians, political parties and even the judges. Effigies of the judges, who overturned the previous decision, are being burnt across Nepal. Boycotting NCell has been called by people, and Biplav group even damaged two dozens towers across Nepal.
Questions are being raised about NCell as a sham company, or even a venture for money laundering, and its business partners are using many tricks to evade paying taxes as well as channeling black money into Nepal. It is almost impossible for the general public to follow how many times the company has been sold between foreign companies from different countries, but the message comes out loud and clear: Something is fishy. A major rip-off is ongoing.
Even if you are not a legal expert, something irks.
One, the social media was abuzz about the statement by NCell to the media. They said that they had given all three political parties Rs. 1 billion each for election. If that money is paid back by the parties, then it was willing to pay all the taxes. Hence, it implicated the major political parties in their complicity in the conspiracy to cheat the Nepal government for their own narrow self interest. Hence this has become the biggest tax evasion scandal involving the Nepal government and foreign company to defraud the Nepali people. No party ever refuted the revelation.
Two, Supreme Court full bench under the Chief Justice had ruled on Magh 23, 2075 that Axiata would have to pay Capital Gains Tax on the 80 percent of the shares within three months. That amount would have been close to Rs. 63 billion. However, another panel that seemed unconstitutional in its make up, cleared NCell of any tax liability. That is the current situation.
Three, Telia Soneria sold NCell to another company Axiata in 2015, and got out not paying the Capital Gains Tax based on the argument that it was not sold to anyone in Nepal. That argument itself is problematic, even at the surface. Nepali Times reported the corrupt nexux thus: The NCell case has been problematic from the start, and there have been numerous allegations that Telia Sonera was allowed to leave the country without paying taxes because of illicit deals made with politicians and officials. News lends credence to such nexus as reported on the Republica: “In what smacks of crony capitalism at work, ruling Nepal Communist Party Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal has hosted a grand reception at the house of Niraj Gobinda Shrestha, one of the former owners of the Ncell telecommunications company. The party was organized on the occasion of Dahal and his wife Sita’s 50th wedding anniversary.”
We have not seen anything so mind boggling before. An opinion by Mr. Manandhar expressed in the Kathmandu Post succinctly explained the baffling situation regarding the NCell issue: “…To put it all in context, … Suppose you are a Norwegian and you owned a piece of land in Nepal, and you transferred the land at a certain profit to a Malaysian having a British citizenship. The whole transaction takes place in Singapore.”
While the government is imposing and tightening tax on even simple purchases for Nepali citizen, they are working through the justice system to exempt big company like NCell, estimated to be at least Rs 80 billion. If that is not a major treachery to the nation and the people, what is?
What stands out from the NCell scandal is the dishonesty of all the major players involved in the case. Activist lawyer Surendra Bhandari has even suggested that one of the judges could possibly be impeached for his conflict of interest.
The bottom line seems to be: Squeeze the people, exempt NCell.
The writer is a graduate of Arizona State University in Political Science. He is working as a social activist and motivational speaker for students across Nepal since 2007.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necesarily reflect the official policy or position of Nepalisite.