Ncell tax fraud architect assumes key role at Nepal Telecom Authority


February 19, 2024


Ncell tax fraud architect assumes key role at Nepal Telecom Authority

Bhupendra Bhandari/File Photo

KATHMANDU: A disconcerting trend of empowering wrongdoers in Nepal has reached an alarming level, with the appointment of Bhupendra Bhandari as the Chairman of the Nepal Telecommunication Authority (NTA), a regulatory body overseeing telecommunications.

The Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda-led government’s appointment of Bhandari, a key player in the Ncell tax scam, is an egregious error with potentially far-reaching consequences, sources at the NTA said.

Bhandari’s presence in the telecom regulatory body is part of Ncell’s calculated strategy to evade taxes, an official insisting anonymity said.

Initially enlisted as an expert by the Ministry of Communication, he played a significant role in orchestrating Ncell’s tax evasion and illicit share acquisitions.

He continues to be affiliated with Ncell, functioning as an internal consultant, raising serious questions about the impartiality of the regulatory body.

His association with Ncell traces back to his tenure as a consultant for the company, a role he maintained until recently.

Bhandari, who previously worked with Ncell-associated groups, was once the CEO of Smart Burundi Company in Burundi, linked to Ncell.

Notably, the company ceased operations in 2022 due to corruption issues upon the expiration of its license. Bhandari served as CEO of Smart Burundi from 2007 to 2015.

In addition to his consultancy with Ncell, Bhandari developed close ties with Axiata, the entity responsible for selling Ncell shares.

Leveraging his position as an Ncell consultant, he assumed the role of consultant to Communications Minister Rekha Sharma.

His connections extend to Krishnadhwaj Khadka, the husband of Minister Sharma, underscoring the intricate web of relationships at play.

The Ncell tax evasion scandal involves a staggering amount in the trillions, where 80 percent of shares were purportedly traded at less than 7 billion, resulting in an evasion of over 60 billion in taxes to the state.

A UK-based company was allegedly established to facilitate this elaborate scheme.

This colossal corruption case implicates only high-ranking individuals within important state agencies., the official said.

The resignation of Purushottam Khanal under pressure to rectify the Ncell tax evasion underscores the gravity of the situation, paving the way for the planned appointment of Bhandari to the Authority.