82 immigration cases reach Phuentsholing court

Of the people charged, 30 were immigration officials and four police personnel

ACC: The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has forwarded 82 cases to the Phuentsholing dungkhag court for their alleged involvement in bribery and illegal entry and exit of foreign workers.

This comes nine months after the Anti-corruption Commission (ACC) suspended 21 foreign workers recruitment agents (FWRA) and 12 immigration officials in August 2014.

Sources said that, of the 82 people charged, 30 were immigration officials, four were police personnel and 23 license holders of FWRAs in Phuentsholing.  Most of the immigration inspectors, who were alleged to be corrupt, are reportedly junior officers with less than five years of service.

Others implicated were taxi drivers, who ferried foreign workers and absconders, and their accomplices.

The anti-graft agency initially implicated seven police personnel, but the OAG had reportedly dropped charges for three, as they could not establish their alleged involvement in extortion.

An ACC official said that 12 immigration officials were suspended after they were found receiving bribes even when the investigation was ongoing.

ACC investigation uncovered two distinct schemes, one at the entry level and another at the time of exit, after the commission in 2013 investigated a case involving several taxi drivers, and police personnel and immigration inspectors at Tanalum checkpost.  They allegedly received bribes in relation to illegal exit of absconding foreign workers.

The commission, which exposed a deeply entrenched systemic corruption in the immigration service in Phuentsholing, found that many foreign workers were allowed to enter Bhutan with fake voter cards printed across the border.  The fake voter cards were processed for work permits by foreign workers agencies, which bribed immigration inspectors with Nu 500 for every work permit issued.

The commission also found that a group of taxi drivers in Thimphu were the lynchpins in the scheme, who guaranteed absconding workers a safe passage through Tanalum checkpost with assistance from their immigration or police accomplices.

Workers without immigration documents are charged anywhere between Nu 1,200 to Nu 1,500 per head as taxi fare to Phuentsholing.  Further, the taxi drivers’ accomplices at Tanalum also tip them off when complaints of absconding workers are lodged with the authorities by employers.

One of the taxi drivers, suspected to be involved in bribing immigration officials and police personnel, went missing when the ACC investigated the case.  Sources said his whereabouts are still unknown.

Meanwhile, dungkhag court officials didn’t disclose details, but the drangpon confirmed of the court having received the case files for registration. “We haven’t started registering the cases at the moment,” he said.

ACC officials also said that the commission would write to the ministry of home and cultural affairs to suspend the other 18 immigration officials after the case has been registered with the court.

After the immigration officials and FWRAs were suspended last year, the license of one more recruitment agent, Menjong, was also suspended in March this year.

By Rajesh Rai in P/ling and 

Rinzin Wangchuk in T/phu

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