20-26 March 2015 #750

Fake doctor out on bail

Centre for Investigative Journalism Nepal, 19 March

Almost six months after the Kathmandu District Court ordered the arrest of Yeshe Lodoe Lama in connection to the financial irregularities and mismanagement of funds at the Citta Hospital in Humla, the Supreme Court released him on a Rs 1 million bail on 4 March.

The decision was made by a joint bench led by Chief Justice Ram Kumar Prasad Shah himself and Justice Jagdish Sharma Poudel. Lama, whose medical certificate was found to be fake (seen, right, examining a patient) was in judicial custody since September 2014 after the Kathmandu CDO found him guilty of embezzlement of charity funds, and that documents he had submitted about the hospital were fraudulent. Lama went to the Supreme Court after Patan Appellate Court on 31 October upheld Kathmandu District Court’s decision to keep him in judicial custody.

In February 2013, artist Michael Daube, executive director of Citta USA, which supported the hospital in Humla lodged a complaint against Lama at the district administration office in Kathmandu for misappropriation of funds. Although Lama submitted audit reports, Daube says they were neither timely nor transparent. The land for the sprawling complex that houses 15-bed hospital equipped with an operation theatre and special emergency wards was bought in his father, Tsering Lama’s name.

The facilities at the Citta Hospital in Humla were only used during the occasional medical camps and Lama was found selling donated medicines at steep prices to local patients. The hospital had an annual budget of almost $90,000 until funding was stopped in late 2012 after Citta discovered that Lama was not even a real doctor.  

Daube is disappointed about Yeshe Lama’s release despite overwhelming evidence, but said he is not ready to give up someone who stole money meant for Nepal’s most disadvantaged people. “Since Yeshe is out on bail, the case will apparently continue and be investigated further,” Daube said in an email. “That is the good news, I guess. With respect to the law, we intend to do the necessary and again defend the case at district level.”

Citta USA  supported Lama to start Citta Medical Centre in 2004 for accessible and quality health care for people in one of the poorest districts of Nepal.After fraudulent documents about the hospital’s financial records surfaced, Citta USA has been in a legal battle against Lama for the past three years to get the hospital back. The hospital is currently closed, pending investigation.

Since the apex court granted Lama the bail, legal experts watching the case closely fear it could indicate the upcoming hearings at the lower district court handing out a lenient sentence to Lama.  

Said Daube: “Seems like Yeshe Lodoe Lama is trying to buy time, my only hope is that the law will be followed properly and due diligence will be done to see he is put in jail and health care can finally flourish for that impoverished region.”