82 people implicated for bribery in illegal entry and exit of foreign workers

ACC/OAG: The department of immigration suspended 18 more immigration officials from the Phuentsholing regional office for their alleged involvement in bribery and illegal entry and exit of foreign workers in 2013 and 2014.

They were suspended after the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) registered a case with the Phuentsholing dungkhag court last week.  A total of 82 people, including 30 immigration officials, three police personnel, five taxi drivers and 23 license holders of foreign workers recruitment agents (FWRA) in Phuentsholing were implicated for bribing public servants, tampering of public documents and forgery.

With the recent suspension, the total number of immigration officials, who are under suspension, has now reached 30.  Last year, 12 immigration officials were suspended after they were found receiving bribes, even when the Anti Corruption Commission’s (ACC) investigation was ongoing.

The OAG has charged the immigration officials with receiving bribes of Nu 500 to 100,000 from taxi drivers, employers of non-national workers and FWRAs.  For instance, an assistant immigration officer at the Phuentsholing regional office was charged on three counts of receiving bribes from Jyoti Structure company and Udee FWRA.  He is alleged to have received Nu 111,000 as bribes in early 2014.

Jyoti Structure company had allegedly bribed the assistant immigration officer with Nu 100,000 for illegally deleting 25 non-national workers out of the immigration system.  Expatriate workers’ work permits were either expired or they had overstayed, for which the fine for 25 workers had amounted to Nu 318,450. “However, the defendant had accepted Nu 100,000 in lieu of the penalty,” the OAG’s statement stated.

Five taxi drivers were charged with ferrying foreign workers and absconders without work permits, and bribing police personnel and immigration official at the Tanalum check post.  One taxi driver was charged on 11 counts of bribery.

The license holders of FWRAs were also charged with processing fake voter cards to avail work permits and bribing immigration inspectors with Nu 500 for every work permit issued.

The corrupt practice in the immigration services was uncovered in 2013, when ACC investigated a case involving some taxi drivers, police personnel, and immigration inspectors at Tanalum check post for alleged bribery in the illegal exit of absconding foreign workers.  It had uncovered two distinct schemes of bribery, one at the entry level and another at the time of exit.

Corruption prevailed largely in the form of bribery among the immigration officials and foreign workers recruitment agents (FWRAs).  Immigration officials, majority of them inspectors, expatriate workers from across the border, police personnel, taxi drivers, and FWRAs were involved in a circle of receiving and giving bribes in cash.

In order to speed up the process in producing work permits for the expatriate workers, the FWRAs used to bribe the immigration inspectors to let pass the non-national labourers with fake voter cards.  Although immigration system can detect the false documents, they were let off with bribes.

With 30 immigration personnel suspended, a shortage of staff is also being felt at the immigration office in Phuentsholing.  However, Kuensel learnt from sources that the immigration department has already recruited some last year after the ACC implicated 30 officials.

By Rinzin Wangchuk & Rajesh Rai