Corruption: Following the conviction of 27 immigration officials both by the Phuentsholing dungkhag and Chukha district courts, the home ministry’s human resource (HR) committee has terminated them without retirement benefits.

The termination order was issued on February 4.

Department of Immigration’s Director General Thinley Wangchuk said that HR committee decided to terminate the officials based on Bhutan Civil Service Rules and Regulations (BCSRR). Section 85 of the Act states that a civil servant shall be terminated from service if he is convicted by the court of law for an offence of misdemeanor and above, related to official functions.

Phuentsholing dungkhag court last August sentenced 27 immigration officials from one year to three years imprisonment for their involvement in bribery and illegal entry and exit of foreign workers in 2013 and 2014. Seven immigration officials were given non-compoundable prison term of three years each in connection with the immigration fraud case.

They were found guilty of “tampering of public documents” and receiving bribes. The officials had tampered information in the immigration system and established bogus receipts to aid expatriate labourers, whose works permit had expired pay less penalty.

However, the lower court judgment was partially reversed when seven defendants appealed to the district court. The dzongkhag court verdict ruled out Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) evidence for tampering of official documents as insufficient to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the crimes were committed.

The court’s investigation found that the immigration checkpoint office had a flawed computer system with poor internet connectivity. The appellate court reduced their three years non-compoundable prison terms to compoundable one-year prison terms each.

The lid to this case was opened in 2013 when Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) investigated a case involving several taxi drivers, police personnel, and immigration inspectors at Tanalum check post who were allegedly involved in bribery in the illegal exit of absconding foreign workers.

Corruption mainly occurred in passing through foreign workers from across the border with fake documents. This involved the recruitment agents as the staff had bribed immigration officials to aid fake voter cards.

A total of 83 people were charged, of which 77 were convicted by the lower court.  The defendants included staffs with the Foreign Workers Recruitment Agencies (FWRA), construction companies categorized as private individuals, taxi drivers, and police personnel.

Rinzin Wangchuk