Fire truck expedition is cancelled, Michael Kobold says

- Tsering D Gurung, Kathmandu

Jun 18, 2019-

Update: Two days after publicly apologising for his lies, Kobold published a new statement on Thursday retracting his apology, calling it "an elaborate joke." While Kobold might be joking, the Post's reporting is serious and we stand by all our stories. Read our statement here.

The ‘Nepal Fire Truck Expedition,’ a project which sought to bring second-hand fire trucks to the country, has been cancelled, announced Michael Kobold, the man behind the initiative, in a social media post.

“The fire truck expedition to Nepal has been cancelled,” Kobold said in a post published Tuesday morning on his Facebook and Instagram pages. “I sincerely apologize to all the supporters, sponsors, government officials and the media for the unnecessary headaches, confusion and for my own incompetence.”

In the post, Kobold admitted to lying to bring the fire trucks to Nepal and knew the project, which was marketed as a tourism campaign, was impossible from its inception.

“I apologize for the string of lies I told in order to bring the fire trucks to Nepal. I apologize for taking money from the Nepal Tourism Board and other sponsors to perpetuate a project that was impossible from its inception,” says the post.

Kobold’s statement was uncharacteristic of someone who has consistently denied all allegations against him, and instead pointed to alleged conspiracies orchestrated by the Indian Embassy in Nepal and corruption in Nepal’s government and the media.

When the Post reached out to Kobold to confirm the veracity of the statements on his social platforms, Kobold was noncommittal, instead accusing the Post of “having done just about everything to kill the project.”

When asked if he’d be returning the funds raised in the name of the expedition, now that it had been called off, his response was defiant.

“Aside from delivering fire trucks, NTB got everything and more stated in the MoU,” wrote Kobold in an email. “Since NTB won’t amend the MoU to make the delivery of the fire trucks possible, why would NTB be entitled to a refund?”

As part of the agreement, the tourism board had paid $100,000 as an advance to Kobold. He had also received 2.5 million rupees from Waling Municipality and Biratnagar Metropolitan City for the expedition, promising a fire truck each in return.

Beside bringing the fire trucks, Kobold had assured coverage on ABC News, FOX News, ITN, AP, PR, Newswire, BBC, AOL, Pittsburgh Post Gazette; celebrity social media engagement by Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Johnny Depp, Steven Tyler; and 2-part 1-hour PBS program, 90-minute feature film, article by former New York Times Magazine editor, a photography book by Martin Hartley, as per the MoU.

Deepak Raj Joshi, CEO of the Nepal Tourism Board, could not be reached for comment. Back in January, Joshi told the Post that the board had already notified Kobold about the possibility of terminating the contract if he fails to organise the expedition by March this year.

The Post’s investigation late last year also showed how Kobold had evaded Nepal’s immigration policies, harassed his employees, and had a history of not paying dues for services.

“I regret that I dreamed this project up and made so many people upset and caused so much trouble in a country I love,” he wrote in the post, “and of which I am merely a guest, not a native.”

Related stories:

— Watchmaker promising fire trucks for Nepal has a series of dodgy financial dealings—and a chequered past

Former Kobold employees say they were harassed, not paid for their work

— Using two passports, Michael Kobold evaded Nepali visa regulations


Published: 19-06-2019 04:51

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