Paro NC member and former DRC director alleged for “commercial bribery”

Corruption: The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has recently forwarded 17 more cases to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) for prosecution in connection with the ongoing entrenched corruption investigation in Phuentsholing.

This brings the total number of cases to more than 30 for commercial bribery,  fraudulent import and deflection of goods at the country’s commercial hub.

Among the 17 new cases are the case of the former revenue and customs director, Choyzang Tashi, and Paro’s National Council member Kaka Tshering. The commission has charged Choyzang Tashi, who was the then regional customs and revenue director in Phuentsholing, for forgery, commercial bribery and official misconduct.

Sources say that the former director had leased out five business licenses,  Tee Dee Whole Sale Enterprise, Tee Dee Retail Enterprise, Tee Dee Cement Agency and Tee Dee Clearing Agent. Four establishments were run by non-Bhutanese, Rajiv Bansari from India, while the clearing agent was leased out to a Bhutanese. All business licenses were reportedly obtained in the names of Choyzang Tashi’s family.

Choyzang Tashi is also alleged for forging his sister-in-law’s signature and thumbprint of his mother-in-law to obtain trade licenses. The commission also asked the accused to restitute the Nu 0.548M he received from Rajiv Bansari to run his four businesses, to the government.

ACC while investigating the case detained Choyzang Tashi for three weeks in July and August as the customs mal-administration, corrupt and fraudulent practices were mostly suspected to have started when he was the regional director in Phuentsholing from 2002 to 2007. All trade licenses were also believed to have obtained during the period.

Choyzang Tashi then served as the director for the Department of Revenue and Customs in Thimphu until 2013 before he was transferred as the executive director of Bhutan Health Trust Fund.

NC member Kaka Tshering was accused of official misconduct and commercial bribery in connection with his Gyalse Nadin Ventures, a garment business. The commission had reportedly found that MP Kaka Tshering transferred his trade license to his daughter in 2013 when he contested for the National Council. However, an Indian businessman, Sushil Kumar Taparia, ran the business and all transactions were conducted between Kaka Tshering and Sushil Kumar Taparia.

MP Kaka Tshering is charged for receiving Nu 1M in alleged bribes from Sushil Kumar Taparia. Both partners were also implicated for deflecting garments imported from China amounting to more than Nu 20M from Phuentsholing to Jaigaon. The commission has asked the duo to restitute Nu 60M as fine and penalty for deflecting garments.

ACC officials said they expect the OAG to review the cases as early as possible for prosecution since the commission is going to forward more cases including the misuse of ATM cards. “Otherwise, there would be a huge backlog of ACC’s findings with the OAG,” a commissioner said.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Shera Lhundup said that the OAG received a few more cases from ACC. “However, we can review only later as our hands are full for now,” he said.

Except for the court proceedings of the owner of Jatan Prasad Lal Chand Prasad (JPLP) departmental store, Lal Chand, the other four fronting cases, which the ACC termed as commercial bribery, were deferred by the OAG. These cases were registered with the Phuentsholing dungkhag court but the OAG requested the court to temporarily suspend the hearings.

The Attorney General in his letter to the court had stated that there were several fronting cases dealt by the regional trade and industry office in Phuentsholing in the past and the OAG will have to look into those cases.

However, ACC officials said that fronting is just a part of the cases and cannot be compared with those cases dealt by the regional trade and industry office. “Those cases were dealt when the ACC and its Act were not in place,” officials said. “Now we have the ACC Act is in place to deal with.”

Rinzin Wangchuk