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… both defendants convicted in a bribery case are waiting for bail

Rinzin Wangchuk 

The two individuals, including a former senior agriculture ministry official, convicted in a Nu 1 million bribery case have appealed to the High Court.

The High Court (HC) is expected to conduct a miscellaneous hearing on September 5 to assign a bench for review and hear the case, according to their legal counsel.

The legal counsel of the former senior livestock production officer of the livestock department (DoL), Tshewang Tashi and the chief executive officer of Sai Trading Partner (STP), Samten, stated in the appeal letter that the lower court had failed to consider their submissions.




“Despite their objections to the evidence submitted by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) based on the Anti-Corruption Commission’s (ACC) findings, the lower court without validating and verifying confessions convicted both defendants,” stated their appeal to HC on August 24.

Both Tshewang Tashi and Samten were found guilty of passive and active bribery in connection with the supply and installation of the modern hatchery in the National Integrated Livestock Farm (NILF) at Samrang, Samdrupjongkhar in 2016.

They alleged that ACC had not only taken their statements under “duress, coercion and undue influence” but also denied their right to a jabmi (legal counsel).




As per the criminal confession under evidence act 2005, the court shall not consider any confession to be valid unless the confession is proven to be made voluntarily; given independently; and made without duress, coercion, undue influence or inducement.

It also stated that if he cannot afford a jabmi, the government will provide him with a jabmi. “However, ACC denied defendants’ request for a jabmi or witness during custodial interrogation,” Jabmi stated in their appeal letter. “We requested the court to dismiss their statements as per the principle of ‘Miranda Warning’ since the coerced confession is inadmissible in the criminal justice system.”





The court’s ruling

The lower court passed the judgment on August 22 stating that Samten paid Nu 1M to Tshewang Tashi after getting the payment for the installation of layer equipment at Relangthang, Sarpang. ACC’s investigation also established that the payment was a “sweetening process” to steer and secure the next contract in the pipeline – supply, installation, and erection of a modern hatchery.

The court stated that Tshewang Tashi shared privileged information about the project with Samten soon after he was bribed with Nu 1M.  Samten then explored the hatchery market and received a technical specification of the hatchery equipment from a Canadian company called Jamesway Incubator Company and the drawings of the hatchery from Dhuma Metal Pvt. Ltd.

Samten then submitted the technical specifications and the drawings to Tshewang Tashi on a USB drive. The technical specification and the drawing given by Samten to Tshewang Tashi appeared in the Standard Bidding Document (SBD) of DoL for the hatchery project. The comparative study of the two documents proved that minute details of the specifications shared by Samten with Tshewang Tashi matched the technical specifications in SBD.




The court also stated that collusion between the duo started almost a year before  notice inviting the tender. ACC’s probe also confirmed that it was the mastermind of Tshewang Tashi, who is the poultry expert in DoL and looks after all the poultry projects under the department, to secure the contract for STP for Nu 1M he received from Samten.

However, Tshewang Tashi claimed that the money was part of Nu 2.5M borrowed from Samten to buy a car. Of the Nu 2.5M, he paid back Nu 1.5M to Samten on October 17, 2016 and the remaining amount on March 15, 2018. “Having all the proper receipts which were submitted as evidence, the court had failed to look into that evidence,” stated in the appeal letter.

 


Case background

ACC launched the investigation after the Commission received an anonymous complaint against Tshewang Tashi on October 11, 2016. The Commission also received an additional anonymous complaint on December 26, 2017, and May 7 2018.

The investigation found that DoL under Accelerated Livestock Development Programme (ALDP) had initiated 11 meat production projects in the fiscal year 2014-15. The government with a budget of Nu 675.72M funded these projects.

Under broad classification, two of the projects under ALDP included a poultry farm in Sarpang with a proposed budget of Nu 71.68M and a Broiler Parent Stock Farm with a hatchery at Samrang with a proposed budget of Nu 72.88M.

ACC found that the work on the supply and installation of layer equipment at Relangthang was awarded to the lowest and the lone bidder STP at the evaluated bid of Nu 1.286M.

During the investigation, ACC found that DoL had made a payment of Nu 5.203M to STP for the installation of equipment and for the completion of six sheds on April 11, 2016.




Dropped two charges

However, the court dropped two charges of false asset declaration and possessing unexplained disproportionate wealth against Tshewang Tashi. The court stated that OAG could not prove that he derived profit from the Youth Business Cooperative (YBC). The defendant proved that funds accumulated in his accounts were sent by relatives residing in the USA and his earnings from foreign training.

ACC’s investigation found that Tshewang Tashi established YBC in the guise of helping the unemployed youth. He personally invested Nu 1.522M in cash and others in kind in the cooperative and profited with Nu 0.682M from his investment.

The investigation also unveiled cash deposits in the four bank accounts operated by Tshewang Tashi. Considering the amount that Tshewang Tashi alleged was sent to him by his siblings, the Commission gave the benefit of the doubt and considered all the conditions under which USD could be sent and deposited.

Meanwhile, both legal counsel and representatives of Tshewang Tashi and Samten requested the HC for bail.

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