NEW DELHI (TrustLaw) – Nepal’s Supreme Court has sentenced a cabinet minister to 18 months in jail after he was found guilty of amassing land and property beyond his income in a rare verdict in the nascent Himalayan republic.

Information and Communications Minister Jay Prakash Prasad Gupta – who held key positions between 1991 and 2000 including agriculture and advisor to the prime minister – is the first minister to be convicted for corruption in modern Nepal.

“There is no parity between the property and the source of income of the defendant. Therefore, it is held that there is corruption,” Judge Sushila Karki said, delivering the verdict on Tuesday.

The court also imposed a fine of around $107,000 – equivalent to the wealth Gupta amassed while holding various ministerial positions.

The case came to light in 2003, when Nepal’s anti-graft body, the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), filed charges against him saying he had property such as land, cars as well as a hefty bank balance which did not match his legal means of income.

In 2007, a special court cleared him, citing a lack of evidence. However, the CIAA appealed to the Supreme Court which overturned the original verdict.

Witnesses said Gupta — head of the Madheshi Janaadhikar Forum-Republican, a small party based in Nepal’s restive southern plains bordering India — was present in court.

Nepal is ranked 154 out of 183 countries on Transparency International’s 2011 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) – with the smallest ranking being the least corrupt.

Last week, a special court convicted three former police chiefs of embezzling millions of dollars of public funds while procuring military hardware for the country’s U.N. peacekeepers in Sudan.

Source: TrustLaw (http://www.trust.org/trustlaw/news/detail.dot?id=4fc42f15-86e1-4d25-a9f0-2c448487f8e3) – 22/2/2012

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