Corruption: Almost about eight months after the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) forwarded its investigation report on one of the biggest embezzlement and fraud cases in recent years, the Office of Attorney General (OAG) yesterday registered its case against the former dungpa (sub divisional head) and 16 other accomplices at the Gelephu dungkhag court.

Former Gelephu dungpa Pema Wangdi is implicated on 18 counts of charges under the multiple provisions of law followed by the former dungkhag administrative assistant, Sonam Norbu, with eight counts of charges in connection with the embezzlement of public fund, fraudulent practices and misuse of authority.

The rest of the accomplices including contractors and three former engineers were charged for misuse of power and in aiding and abetting the crime.

OAG has categorized the corruption cases into eight sections amounting to a total of 55 charges against 17 defendants.

One of the charges against the former dungpa is an alleged embezzlement of Nu 10.637M (million), a fund generated from Losel Cinema hall in Gelephu town; Nu 1.388M for claiming fictitious expenditure on account of maintenance work of cinema hall, and misuse of about Nu 0.12M, which the dungkhag office had received as compensation for dismantling a bakery affected by town planning in Gelephu thromde.

The other charges against the former dungpa include fraudulent award of contract works. Pema Wangdi had allegedly awarded three contract works to construction firms without floating tenders. He was accused of awarding renovation work of Gelephu tshachu (hot spring) worth Nu 1.350M to four contractors, who were believed to be friends and acquaintances of him and his son’s. ACC had found that the tender documents were submitted later while some documents were forged.

Awarding works of renovation worth Nu 1.2M Gelephu crematorium, and re-roofing of Nu 1.6M cinema hall followed the same modus operandi.  The ACC in August last year suspended trade and contract licenses of seven construction firms allegedly indulged in fraudulent tendering process, following an investigation on complaints lodged against the dungpa.

The suspended licenses belonged to Jigson Construction of Wamrong, Trashigang, T. Dradul Construction in Nganglam, Pemagatshel, PKDS Construction in Tsholingkhar, Tsirang, Ugyen Gyeltshen Construction in Radhi, Trashigang, Kholo Construction and Pelden Lhamo Construction, both in Sarpang, and Dangpeng Construction in Trashiyangtse. In the same month, ACC also froze three plots in Phuentsholing and Gelephu for any transaction. These plots were allegedly transacted by the former dungpa for 50 percent commission.

When forwarding its 500-page investigation report to OAG in March this year, the commission had implicated 253 counts of charges against Pema Wangdi and accomplices.  The ACC took about five months to compile the investigation report, with evidences collected from a Hilux load of documents.

The commission began investigation on June 13, 2014 after receiving several complaints against the former dungpa, who has been suspended since June 23, after they found a prima facie case of corruption and embezzlement. In the process of investigation, ACC officials recovered Nu 3.401M from dungpa’s residence in Gelephu.

The OAG also charged the former dungpa for allegedly smuggling of Tokay gecko, which was also investigated by the ACC.

Former administrative assistant Sonam Norbu is also charged with aiding and abetting the alleged crime and embezzlement.

The Royal Audit Authority (RAA), while auditing the financial status of Losel cinema and other related works, also found that the dungpa and dungkhag administrative assistant, who was also the Losel cinema hall in-charge, have misused and embezzled more than Nu 10.63M, after winning a legal battle with the State Bank of Sikkim.

The auditors revealed huge deficiencies and lapses of serious nature, manipulation of records, submission of fictitious expenditure on repair and maintenance of cinema hall, and unaccounted funds.

By Yeshey Dema in Gelephu & Rinzin Wangchuk