Fury over 'plan to sell' Nepal embassy building in London

  • 19 April 2013
  • From the section Asia
Media captionMajor Damar Ghale, leading the campaign against the possible embassy sale, described it as "shameful".

The Nepalese community in London is protesting against what they say are plans to sell Nepal's embassy in London.

A government committee is in London to look into the viability of selling the Victorian villa, which it only pays a small amount to lease.

It is in one of the UK's most expensive roads in central London.

The Nepalese government says the committee is only fact-finding and no decisions have been made.

"I want to make it clear to you that the government has not taken any decision, so it all depends on the recommendation of the team," said Nepalese foreign ministry spokesman Arjun Thapa.

The house in Kensington Palace Gardens is on the same road as mansions owned by the billionaire Lakshmi Mittal and the Sultan of Brunei.

One property expert says the villa is worth about $153m (£100m).

'Pride of Nepal'

UK Nepalese community leaders say the embassy was given because of strong ties between Nepal and Britain, and it should be kept.

Image caption The embassy is not well maintained and expensive to upkeep

"Everyone agrees this is [the] pride of Nepal and Nepalis and the reason the embassy is in such a prime location in London is because of the special relationship between UK and Nepal," says retired Gurkha officer, Major Damar Ghale, who is leading a campaign group against the sale.

"We believe it was given as a token of thanks to the Nepalese government for the Gurkhas' service to the UK," he says.

This is not the first time the Nepalese government has looked into selling the property, which is expensive to maintain.

The idea has been raised by different Nepalese governments over the past 10 years.

It is clear that Nepal has struggled to keep the building properly maintained. On the outside paint is peeling and the gardens are not maintained.

Inside there are reported to be problems with plumbing and electricity.

In 2008, another committee reported that it would cost $6.8m (£4.5m) to complete essential repairs to the building, in accordance with the lease signed with the Crown Estate Commission.

The commission manages property owned by the British Crown but which is not the private property of the monarch.

"We need a huge amount of money to maintain the embassy," foreign ministry spokesman Mr Thapa said.

"The government will have to work very hard to find it," he says.

But the Nepalese community in the UK have said that they would be prepared to put up money to help with the upkeep.

"All Nepalese people want to keep this embassy at any cost," said Surya Gurung who owns a Nepalese restaurant in Surrey.

The community says that even elderly ex-Gurkhas have offered to donate part of their state pension to the campaign.

In Kathmandu, pressure by a Gurkha association led to a Supreme Court order earlier this week temporarily banning any sale.

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