Nepal king’s unpaid utility bills reach millions


Kathmandu : The new Nepal government may have stripped King Gyanendra of his powers and privileges on paper but it has still not been able to make the palace pay its utility bills, which have reached nearly NRS 40 million (over $600,000), a report said.

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It is not just the king and his immediate family who have not paid their electricity dues. Even his aunt, sister and nieces have stopped paying their bills with the government standing as a helpless spectator.

Records at Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) show that though it sent bills regularly to the palace and other royal relatives, they have been ignored since 2005 when King Gyanendra seized absolute power and became the all-powerful head of government from a constitutional monarch.

From February 2005 to mid-June this year, the Narayanhity royal palace, the official residence of the king and his consort Queen Komal, has run up a power bill of NRS 26.37 million, the Kathmandu Post daily reported Saturday.

Nirmal Niwas, the residence of Crown Prince Paras that was the second centre of power during the king's 15-month absolute rule, owes NRS 2.73 million.

Three royal nieces – daughters of the king's younger brother Dhirendra who died in the infamous royal palace massacre in 2001 – also owe the NEA over NRS 1.8 million.

Even their mother Prekshya, sister of Queen Komal and the victim of a chopper crash after the palace massacre, owes the state over NRS 700,000 for four accounts still being run in her name, almost five years after her death.

The royal relatives have been named in several financial scandals since King Gyanendra ascended the throne.

His sister Shobha, who along with her husband, have been named as bank loan defaulters, still has an unpaid power bill of over NRS 900,000.

The king's aunt, Helen Shah, who despite owning a five-star hotel and other businesses, received a state largesse of millions during deposed prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba's government for medical treatment abroad, has not cleared her power bills amounting to over NRS 500,000.

In addition to the Kathmandu palace, the royal family also owns mansions in the districts outside. While it was not known immediately how much they owe the state utility board, the Post said they too stopped paying after the royal coup.

The revelation comes after the damaging disclosure that despite the eight-party Nepal government claiming that it had stopped all allowances to the king in the new budget for 2007-08, the royal family was still receiving an allowance of NRS 24 million as well as money to pay employees as well as maintain the palace.

Though he had to step down in April 2006 due to a public revolt, King Gyanendra still continues to live his life the way he did when he was the monarch of all he surveyed in Nepal.

This month, despite angry demonstrations by students in Kathmandu, the king celebrated his 61st birthday with three days' festivities that, however, were boycotted by the diplomatic community and the current government.