ACC: Could the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) freeze commercial activities run on disputed immovable property that was already frozen by the commission against any transaction?

This is a question observers and tenants, renting apartments in buildings built on disputed land and frozen against notices issued by the commission, are asking.

The ACC had frozen several land belonging to different owners while investigating the Thimphu land case involving a former gup. There are about three buildings standing on the land frozen by the ACC.

Sharing her concern, a tenant asked if there are any standing law or rule that protects the tenants. “There is a possibility of them  (ACC) asking us to vacate the rented flat without any notice,” she said.

With the ACC’s hands full with cases and prosecution delayed, some are of the view that the commission should create a separate account and make the tenants deposit the rent or any income generated from the commercial activity until the completion of legal proceedings.  “How can one operate business or generate rental income from the structures built on a disputed land?” said one.

ACC officials however said that the commission, as of now, has nothing to do with the structures built on the frozen immovable property or income generated from the building. “We normally issue freeze notice on immovable property like land, cautioning individuals, institutions or any business entities to refrain from entering into any transactions,” an ACC commissioner said. “In absence of clear rules, the commission cannot stop running commercial activity.”

The commission also clarified that property owners could continue repairing or maintenance of the property built on the land in question.

However, it was learnt that the ACC could also issue freeze notice on the income generated from property and businesses that the commission has frozen against any transaction. “Because they are generating income from the structures built on the land transacted illegally,” an ACC commissioner said. He refused to share the details of how and why.

Section 107 of the Anti-Corruption Act of Bhutan 2011 states, “Where the Commission is satisfied on information obtained by it that any immovable property is the subject matter of an offence under this Act or evidence of the commission of such offence, such property shall be liable to seizure”.

It also states that where an endorsement of a notice of seizure has been made under this section the notice shall have the effect of prohibiting all dealings in respect of the immovable property, and after such endorsement has been made no dealing in respect of the immovable property shall be registered, regardless of whether it was effected before or after the issue of such notice or the making of such endorsement.

Meanwhile, the commission is in the process of finalizing the investigation report on the fraudulent land case in Thimphu.

Officials from Office of the Attorney General (OAG) also said they would register the case of illegal land transaction case before the dzongkhag court in Trongsa very soon.

Rinzing Wangchuk