Nepal's anti-corruption body, the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), is uncertain as to whether it will launch an investigation into an alleged bribe Airbus paid to local officials as part of a deal for Nepal Airlines (RA, Kathmandu) to buy two A320-200s, the Kathmandu Post reported on February 11.

According to the settlement agreement Airbus reached with France's Parquet National Financier (PNF), the UK's Serious Fraud Office and US authorities on January 31, the manufacturer paid at least EUR340,000 euros (USD371,000) in bribes to Nepalese business people and officials to secure contracts for the narrowbodies. The agreement document alludes to a total financial commitment of USD1.8 million.

The CIAA said that although it was aware of the "bribery revelation", no specific decision had been made to investigate the revelations further, an unnamed official at the commission told the newspaper.

The commission had already taken part in an investigation of the procurement of two A330-200s for the flag carrier. In a January 2019 parliamentary report, this probe ultimately blamed the airline's then managing director, Sugat Ratna Kansakar, the former civil aviation minister Rabindra Adhikari, and several other officials for financial mismanagement and a loss to the Nepalese state of NPR4.35 billion rupees (USD39.2 million at the time of the report).

Discussions with Airbus over the purchase of the A320s began in 2007, according to a court filing by the PNF. In an email sent in 2010 to a director at SMO International, which at the time managed Airbus' international business development and sales, an intermediary said that the lack of "effective convincing from top to bottom and left to right" of the Nepalese authorities needed to be addressed.

He asked Airbus to "support the project" and "urgently take the necessary steps in order to make this small project succeed", the court filing said. After further negotiations, a purchase agreement was signed on June 2013 to buy the two A320s, which were delivered in February 2015 and April 2015.

"Under the guise of coded language, the goal was to transfer to the [...] intermediary funds which appeared to be intended for third parties which the intermediary was in contact with," the court document said.

"We are surprised that the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority is not showing immediate interest in such a serious corruption issue," Khem Raj Regmi, president of Transparency International Nepal, told the Kathmandu Post. "The anti-graft body does not have to wait for any complaint to be filed. It can promptly launch its own investigation."

Deepak Prakash Bhatta, a Nepalese politician who headed the investigation probing the A330 acquisition, said that the parliamentary International Relations Committee would meet this week to discuss the A320 purchase.

Nepal Airlines' fleet includes the two A320-200s and two A330-200s alongside three DHC-6-300s, one MA-60, and several Y12s, the ch-aviation fleets advanced module shows.