Col Lama’s lawyers demand Rs 57.2m

KATHMANDU, FEB 07 – Kingsley Napley, the UK law firm hired to defend Col Lama, has demanded 430,000 pounds sterling (Rs 57,209,577 at current exchange rate) to fight the case. Lama has been remanded in police custody until another hearing on June 5. The ‘excessive’ fees charged by the UK law firm has put the government in a fix, leading to indecisiveness ever since the Nepali Embassy in the UK forwarded the fee structure to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) about a week ago. “We are in a quandary. We don’t know what to do as Lama’s lawyers have demanded an unexpectedly high fees. It might not be big money for them, but for a poor country like ours, this is a huge amount,” a senior government official told the Post on Wednesday. The British Central Criminal Court, which is looking into Lama’s case, announced on January 25 that a hearing had been scheduled for May 10 and that a trial will be heard at the Kingston Crown Court in Southern London on June 5. Col Lama is in the custody of the British police since January 5. Solicitor Michael Caplan QC, who once handled the case of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, is looking after Lama’s case. Caplan is said to be one of UK’s top lawyers and is a partner in the Kingsley Napley law firm. The Nepal Government paid 10,000 pounds when Napley was hired and the case pledged for the first time in the court.

A January 17 Cabinet meeting decided to release 50,000 pounds for Lama’s bail and other procedural expenses. Later, when the local British court extended its order on January 25, the London-based Nepali mission asked Napley to submit its requirements, including the fees.

After the government received the letter on Napley’s demands, the MoFA and the Nepal Army began discussions on how to raise the money. However, both the institutions passed the buck to each other. Nepal Army officials claimed that the fees should be paid by the government as it had publicly committed to make every possible effort to release Col Lama. MoFA officials, on the other hand, said the fees should be paid from the Nepal Army Welfare Fund, which has around Rs 13 billion. “The Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs are currently in Hetauda attending their party’s General Convention We will take up the case with them once they return,” officials said.