One customs inspector, three non-Bhutanese still in detention

Corruption: In the ongoing investigation on entrenched corruption in the fraudulent export and import businesses in Phuentsholing, the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) yesterday froze seven saving accounts belonging to three family members and their business firm against any outgoing transactions.

The commission froze the accounts of Magaret Moktan, Uma Devi Chettri, Hri Dayesh Chimmi Dorji and Udee Clearing Agent.

Uma Devi Chettri owns the Udee Clearing Agent but her daughter-in law, Magaret Moktan runs the clearing business.

The commission, in exercise of the power conferred by section 106 of the Anti Corruption Act 2011, notified that the movable properties in bank including any monetary instruments and accretion belonging to the three individuals and their clearing agent firm were frozen with immediate effect.

Four accounts were maintained with Druk Punjab National Bank Limited (DPNBL), two with the Bank of Bhutan Limited (BOBL) and one with Bhutan National Bank Limited (BNBL), all in Phuentsholing.

“The notice shall remain effective until further order from the commission,” the freeze notice signed by ACC’s chairperson Dasho Neten Zangmo stated.

Sources said that Uma Devi Chettri is the mother of a deputy collector with the regional revenue and customs office in Samtse. His wife, Magaret Moktan has three accounts in three banks while Uma Devi Chettri also has two bank accounts. The ACC had detained both the deputy collector and his wife for interrogation. The deputy collector was released last week.

ACC is still investigating the alleged corrupt practices that were leading to tax evasion, fraudulent declaration, repatriation of INR, and customs mal-administration in Phuentsholing.

The commission released a customs inspector and two middlemen (non-Bhutanese) who were working for clearing agents yesterday. One more customs inspector and three non-Bhutanese are still under detention.

The regional revenue and customs office’s (RRCO) director, Sonam Dorji clarified that about 200 – 300 truckloads of consignments enter from India everyday, and another six to seven trucks from third countries. Goods imported from India have to pay sales tax, while third country goods are levied both sales and custom duty.

Sonam Dorji said that the RRCO in Phuentsholing has been imposing fines for under declaring of invoices. He also said that Kuensel’s estimation of Bhutan losing more than Nu 20 million everyday in tax evasion might not be true.

The ACC Act states that where the commission is satisfied on information obtained by it that any movable property, including any monetary instrument or any accretion thereto, which is the subject matter of an offence under the Act or evidence in relation to the commission of such offence, is in the possession, custody or control of a bank, the commission may, by order direct the bank not to part with, deal in, or otherwise dispose of such property or any part thereof for 21 days from the date of issue of such order.

By Rinzin Wangchuk