Police have arrested eight staffers of Italian contractor of Melamchi Water Supply Project Cooperativa Muratori e Cementisti (CMC) di Ravenna which is close to bankruptcy and handed them over to the Ministry of Water Supply.
The eight staffers including project manager of the contractor Cristiano Greco were arrested by a joint team of the Metropolitan Police Crime Division and Metropolitan Police Circle Durbar Marga from Royal Penguin Hotel in Thamel Sunday night.
Chief of the division SSP Dhiraj Pratap Singh claimed that the octet was leaving by a Qatar Air flight later in the night without informing the government. Police claim the eight were trying to abscond abandoning the project in pretence of going home to celebrate Christmas.
Their passports have been confiscated.
DSP at the Durbar Marga Circle Dan Bahadur Malla said the eight were suspiciously staying at another hotel booking rooms at Kathmandu Hotel of Thamel.
Secretary at the ministry Gajendra Thakur had also accompanied the police team while arresting the Italian staffers.
DSP Malla said project manager Greco during police questioning conceded that they were going back home as the company was going down. Greco added that they were in Kathmandu for two days leaving the work.
The Italian company that earned around US$ 15 billion, around 75 percent of that from infrastructure projects outside Italy, has been suffering from cash flow problems from the start of 2018.
Credit rating agency Moody’s Investors Service in September had downgraded the corporate family rating (CFR) of CMC to B3 from B2 and its probability of default rating (PDR) to B3-PD from B2-PD due to its deterioration in liquidity and free cash flow in the first half of the year 2018.
The ministry was seeking police help in the past few days fearing that the Italian contractors were looking to abscond.
Melamchi Water Supply Development Board (MWSDB) said that the Italian company had been reporting about their work until two days back.
The work of concrete lining 960 meters of the Melamchi tunnel is still remaining, according to the MWSDB. Intake and closing the hydro-mechanical gate also have yet to be completed.
A ministry official told Setopati that all these works would have been completed by April at the current pace. But this project is again facing uncertainty due to the financial problem of the contractor.
The government had promised to bring water from the Melamchi project, that started in 2001, to Kathmandu by October 2018 but it could not do so.
The government had brought CMC di Ravenna in 2013 after terminating the previous contract with China Railway 15 Bureau Group following their sluggish work. The Chinese company had constructed only 6.5 km of the 26.3 km tunnel from Ribarma in Sindhupalchowk till Sundarijal in Kathmandu and CMC was roped in to construct the remaining part of the tunnel.