ACC implicates 11 for fraud, encroachment of Govt. land

Corruption: The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has forwarded its investigation findings of fraudulent registration and encroachment of 1.37 acres of government land in Tshalumaphey, Babesa to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) for criminal prosecution.

The report implicated 11 alleged offenders involving two former Chang gups, the former survey and land record assistant director, and eight other people. They were implicated for forgery, encroachment of tsatong and government land, and for breach of duty to report.

The commission also recommended eight plots, which originated from illegally transacted land, to be de-registered from private thrams and restituted back to the state.

The ACC report is part of a series of investigations into alleged misconduct by the  former gup Naku during his tenure as Chang gup between 1999 and 2002.

The investigation found that Namgay, popularly known as Talab Namgay, complicit with his father-in-law, former Chang gup Kencho, had conspired to illegally transfer late Ani Norzom’s 49-decimal land from Talakha to Tshalumaphey village in 1998.

Namgay alleged to have fraudulently processed the transaction documents and misrepresented himself in the court as a nephew and legal heir of Ani Norzom. Namgay, who is originally from Talakha, also knew that the deceased did not have siblings to inherit her property after her death.

However, their effort was temporarily impeded when the court, for some unexplained reasons, withheld their transfer application for about a year. It was only when Namgay had agreed to appropriate 10 decimals to the erstwhile department of survey and land record’s assistant director, Tshewang Gyeltshen, that the court had expeditiously transferred the thram to Tshewang Gyeltshen’s wife Dechen Youden. That was done during the national land survey in 2000 as negotiated by Naku.

The investigation revealed that in facilitating the fraudulent transfer through the court, former gup Naku, using his position of authority, knowingly arranged false documents for the court mis-presenting the transferees either as relatives of the deceased or for their census records to show that they were from Chang gewog. For instance, he certified to the court that Dechen Youden was a niece of late Ani Norzom and that she was from Tshalumaphey when she was actually from Trashiyangtse and was not related with the deceased.

The land was apportioned among themselves – 10 decimals to Namgay, 10 decimals to Tshewang Gyeltshen, 20 decimals to former gup Kencho, and the remaining nine decimals to a private individual with whom Namgay and Kencho had already made a sale deal. As per the Land Act 1979, land of deceased owner termed ‘tsatong’, are considered government land and local leaders are responsible to report such information to the authorities.

Namgay admitted to ACC investigators that a 10 decimal plot appropriated to Dechen Youden was as per the orders of Naku, who assured that he and Tshewang Gyeltshen would assist him in transferring the thram and to relocate the plot. He also said Tshewang Gyeltshen provided indication that land shifting would be possible since the plot was under same gewog and dzongkhag.

Dechen Youden however stated that she had no idea who Ani Norzom was and except for signing on the internal agreement and the petition, all work related to the land transfer was done by her husband.

On the other hand, Tshewang Gyeltshen admitted that all transaction documents were processed by the then gup Naku at his behest. He also claimed he was not aware that the plot belonged to a deceased thram holder.

In his statement to the commission, Tshewang Gyeltshen said he purchased land with the help of former gups Kencho and Naku. “However, none of them told me that the land that I was buying pertained to a deceased thram holder,” he stated. He also claimed that he paid Nu 30,000 to Naku as payment for Namgay who sold the land to him. However, Naku denied receiving any money from Tshewang Gyeltshen.

Plot relocation, excess land 

The investigation revealed that not only did they fraudulently transfer the land of the late Ani Norzom, they illegally surveyed the land at a different location on vacant government land and significantly inflated the plot acreage during the survey on November 20, 2000.

They measured land at Tshalumaphey in Babesa when the actual land owned by late Ani Norzom was in Talakha. In the field, former gup Naku and Namgay arranged for a signed clearance from the local community falsely validating that the deceased’s land in Khimjab was at Soridrag.

The commission also examined those eight individuals who falsely certified that the plot at Khimjab was at Soridrag. They were implicated for validating in writing, Namgay’s false claim and for defrauding the government into surveying his 10-decimal plot at Soridrag.

During the survey conducted by late Sonam Dorji, Namgay’s 10-decimal plot was measured as 82 decimals from which Naku received 13 decimals as gratification. Similarly, Tshewang Gyeltshen’s 10-decimal plot was surveyed as 26 decimals. For the excess land, payment of Nu 0.627 million including tax was paid to the government.

Between 2001 and 2003, the whole plot was subsequently transferred to different individuals out of which 13 decimals were transferred to Naku.

Naku claimed that the 13-decimal plot was bought for Nu 15,000 from Namgay. However, Namgay stated that the plot was from excess areas and transferred upon payment of excess land price by Naku himself.

Later, Tshewang Gyeltshen’s 26-decimal plot, including 16 decimals of excess land was sold under the joint ownership of Naku’s son and daughter. Their internal agreement on August 25, 2006 stated that the total cost of land was Nu 0.9 million.

The ACC however discovered otherwise. Tshewang Gyeltshen admitted of having sold his 26 decimals plot to Naku for Nu 1.378 million and to have used Nu 0.7 million to purchase a Toyota Prado. The commission froze about eight plots aggregating to 1.39 acres and seized Tshewang Gyeltshen’s Prado as well.

Meanwhile, the commission is reportedly finalising four other fraudulent land cases against Naku involving several acres of land in and around Thimphu.

Since mid 2013, the commission started investigating numerous allegations received against Naku for allegedly having registered and transacted government land in Thimphu when he was serving as gup of Chang gewog. Most of these allegations indicated existence of collusion with surveyors and key public officials in the land record authority.

Rinzin Wangchuk

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