Nepal king refuses to divulge wealth details
Mar 19, 2007 - 2:28:57 PM

Kathmandu, March 19 - Despite growing clamour for the abolition of monarchy in Nepal, King Gyanendra has refused to divulge details about his wealth to the government, ignoring the deadline set by a team of ministers.

Three ministers headed by Physical Planning and Infrastructure Minister Gopal Man Shrestha had asked the royal palace to provide details about the property, assets, jewellery and other valuables it owned in Nepal and abroad by March 15.

The government formed the team after a decision to take over the property of slain king Birendra and his wife Aishwarya and use them for public welfare.

However, the king has ignored the call to provide details about his wealth. Besides taking over the late king Birendra's property, the government wants to impose tax on King Gyanendra's personal wealth.

Shrestha told the state news agency RSS that the ministers' committee would start collecting information from various state agencies as well as the central bank, Nepal Rastra Bank.

The government hopes to get details about the royal family's business investments and accounts in foreign banks from the central bank. The royal family will get no compensation for the state takeover, Shrestha said.

The minister also said that the Narayanhity royal palace in Kathmandu and other palaces owned by the royal family outside the capital would be brought under state control.

The palaces may be converted into museums and other sites and be opened to tourists, he said.

King Birendra and his entire family were gunned down in a macabre midnight attack in the Narayanhity royal palace in 2001, resulting in his younger brother Gyenendra ascending the throne and inheriting the murdered family's property.

Last week, the government, continuing snipping away at the palace's privileges, reduced the employees at the palace by 50 percent. It also scrapped a provision that had earlier made it mandatory for anyone planning to build a house in the area to get the approval of the palace.

The king felt the sting of his reduced status Sunday keenly when a traditional army programme, Ghode Jatra, was celebrated in the capital without inviting him. His place as chief guest at army festivals goes to the prime minister from this year after parliament removed the king as head of the army and government.

The government may not be able to implement its lofty plans.

In the past, a high-level commission, formed to bring to justice the royalist ministers and officials responsible for ordering excessive force against unarmed protesters, asked the king to answer its queries and was roundly ignored.

The government has still not been able to take action against the king for the refusal.

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