Nationalisation of Royal Assets: Nepal

Since the national uprising of April 2006, the Government in Nepal, of which the Communist Party of Nepal- Maoist (CPN-Maoist) was a significant constituent, has gradually stripped the royalty of its powers and privileges. Maoists want the abolition of royalty and have pressured the Government to initiate several steps towards achieving their objective.

On May 18, 2006, the parliament passed a sweeping resolution to strip the palace of its powers, wrest control of the Army and declare Nepal a secular nation. The resolution stripped the King of all his authorities; disbanded the royal Privy Council; snatched the post of Supreme Commander in Chief of the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA); brought about 2500 strong palace personnel under the Public Service Commission Act and brought all royal properties under tax-net of the government.

On February 26, 2007, the Nepalese government created a three-member panel to assemble a list of assets held by King Gyanendra and seize property he obtained after ascending to the throne. The task of detailing the King’s assets and recommending a plan to nationalize the property and assets to a charity trust was to be completed within a month. The King will only be able to retain those assets he acquired prior to taking the throne. Further on August 18, the Government formed a Panel of five ministers to assess the properties of slain king Birendra that was inherited by the current king and nationalize the inherited property. The report was to be submitted within 15 days.

Three days subsequent to the formation of the Panel, on August 21, the Government announced it was taking over the Narayanhity royal palace in the capital, the official residence of the King as well as six more palaces in the kingdom. Besides the Narayanhity palace, the Government also took over Hanumandhoka Palace in Kathmandu, Patan Palace in Lalitpur (5 km south-west of the capital), Bhaktapur Palace (15 km south), Gorkha Palace (200 km west), Lamjung Palace (300 km west) and Nuwakot Palace (60 km north). Krishna Bahadur Mahara, Government spokesperson and Information and Communication Minister said on August 26 that Narayanhity Palace will be used by the government whilst the other six will be managed by the Nepali Department of Archaeology. In addition, the government also took over 1,500 bighas of land owned by the royal family. The takeover, however, was only technical, in that the royal residences were under the effective management of the Government for the last several years. And with all but one of the palaces listed as United Nations World Heritage Sites, most of them were being run by the municipalities and the Archaeological Department. On August 24, King Gyanendra and Queen Komal shifted out of the Narayanhity royal palace to the Nagarjun Palace, at a distance of five kilometres away.

Media reports further said that Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula has asked land revenue offices to stop attempts to sell any of the nationalized properties. The Government also sealed the bank accounts of the King, Queen, Crown Prince Paras and his wife Himani to stop transactions till the ministerial assessment is over.

Towards the end of August 2007, the Government also took steps to trace the bank accounts of late Queen Aishwarya and her two sons, late crown prince Dipendra and prince Niranjan. On August 30, Prithvi Subba Gurung, minister for culture, tourism and civil aviation and member of the Panel that was formed on August 18, said that the Government has been able to locate one bank account in Nepal held by late Queen Aishwarya and her two sons in the Standard Chartered Bank in Nepal. According to him, the account originally held UK £13.7 million. However, subsequent transactions transferred the bulk of the money to a bank in Britain, leaving only UK £40,000 in Nepal. It was not immediately disclosed who had transferred the sum or who its recipients were.

The Maoists’ September 18, 2007 decision to quit the Government has stalled the nationalisation move. Maoists on the other hand have started a door-to-door public campaign to lobby against King Gyanendra and his two-century-old dynasty.


2006