Upendra Mahato is among Nepal’s richest tycoons, with a fortune derived in part from his involvement in one of Nepal’s biggest businesses, Ncell. Today Mahato lives with his family in a domed neoclassical villa on a sprawling property with landscaped gardens in an upmarket area of Kathmandu.
But just how much money has Upendra Mahato made from the telecommunications company? And how much tax has he paid on his profits?
Deepak Adhikari, an Alfred Friendly Fellow in 2008, recently collaborated with two other journalists for a major investigation into the lack of accountability to Nepal’s laws on foreign exchange controls, taxation, and foreign ownership.
“Our investigation uncovered how a trio of Nepali businesspeople made fortunes through sales and purchase of shares of Ncell,” Adhikari said. The two-part series was a joint investigation between the Centre for Investigative Journalism-Nepal and Finance Uncovered, a UK-based journalism organization.
“We unpeel the multiple layers of the companies to show how a handful of people earned millions of dollars through opaque share deals,” Adhikari said. “This story is important because Nepal struggles to raise funds for public financing such as education and health.”
The first and second stories were published in English and Nepali languages.
“The response for our stories has been huge, particularly from the government regulators,” Adhikari said. The Himalayan Times, a major English daily, published a report based on their stories, republished the first story and followed up with an editorial that said the stories demonstrated the need for reforming Nepal’s laws on foreign exchange controls, taxation and foreign ownership.
Adhikari credits the Alfred Friendly fellowship and his reporting experience at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for advancing his career.
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