June 27, 2005

Sacked Nepal PM cleared of graft charge

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - A powerful anti-graft body on Mondaycleared former Nepal Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba ofcorruption charges, officials said.

The Royal Commission for Corruption Control (RCCC) saidDeuba's decision to distribute $54,000 in state money to hissupporters during the Hindu festival of Dasain last October wasagainst standard procedure but did not amount to corruption.

"He has been cleared of the charge," RCCC spokesman PremRaj Karki told Reuters.

Karki said six other former ministers facing similarcharges and those who received the money had also been cleared.

But officials said the former premier would continue to bein police custody until a decision by the panel on a separatecharge of embezzling $5.3 million of state money in a drinkingwater project.

Deuba was arrested in April after he refused summons fromthe RCCC that wanted to question him on corruption charges.

He was sacked in February when King Gyanendra seized powerafter accusing the three-time premier of failing to quell anine-year-old Maoist rebellion which has left 12,000 peopledead.

Gyanendra set up the panel, armed with sweeping powers tojail corrupt politicians and bureaucrats, saying he wanted tofight widespread corruption in desperately poor Nepal.