Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Officials at the Allay Land Customs Station (LCS) in Pasakha, Phuentsholing seized tobacco products worth Nu 2.7 million on November 8 evening.

The consignment contained 30 sacks of chewing tobacco (BABA), and 12 cartons of cigarettes and bidis was heading to Thimphu.

Officials from the police, customs, Association of Bhutanese Industries and DeSuups seized the products from an incoming vehicle from across the border. Police are investigating the case.

After the border gate in Phuentsholing was sealed on March 23 in response to the pandemic, Phuentsholing police arrested 47 people, including two women attempting to smuggle tobacco products and other controlled substances so far.

Police seized another consignment in the town on November 6, and also arrested a 32-year-old driver trying to smuggle 12 boxes of cigarettes in a local private vehicle.

Police officials said that there was no chance people will be able to engage in such illegal activities with the “vigilance and security tightened.”

“Also, we have many informers and we are implanting more informers,” an official said.

Considering the risks the illegal activities posed to people’s lives due to the pandemic, court proceedings have been expedited with harsh sentences given to deter people.

Since March 23, individuals involved in smuggling tobacco products and controlled substances in Phuentsholing have been sentenced to prison for one year to 15 years, according to sources.

Other Covid-19 breaches

Since March 23, Phuentsholing police arrested 13 people, including a woman, for breaching Covid-19 protocols.

On November 7, police arrested a 36-year-old antique items dealer who had absconded in July this year. He was given bail by the Paro court in a choeten vandalism case and had gone missing.

Police said he had sneaked into Phuentsholing from across the border without Covid-19 protocols. Police arrested him at Zangtopelri area.

The man from Uesu gewog, Haa had met nine individuals after he entered Bhutan, and three of them were his primary contacts. Although the absconder tested negative for RT-PCR, all his contacts will remain in home-quarantine until the absconder’s second RT-PCR result is out.

The culprit has been kept in isolation and another set of tests will be conducted after 14 days, following which he will be charge-sheeted.

As per the Penal Code, individuals who break Covid-19 protocols will be taken as “criminal nuisance,” under its Section 410.

It is also considered as a breach of public order and tranquillity as per Section 448 of the Act.