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Meanwhile, more than 50 Bhutanese ATM cardholders have been interrogated 

Corruption: In continuation to the ongoing investigations, the Anti-corruption Commission (ACC) has detained one more Bhutanese, the kingpin, in connection with the illegal transaction of currency using Automated Teller Machine (ATM) cards in Phuentsholing.

The commission has reportedly detained an employee of Punatshangchu project, after he was found involved in a racket of ATM cards being used to divert Indian Rupee (INR) from Bhutan. He was reportedly involved as a facilitator for the project’s employees in diverting the INR.

On August 20, the ACC detained Sanjeev Kumar Gupta, 32, from Jaigaon for possessing 286 Bhutanese ATM cards.

Sanjeev Kumar Gupta, who is still under detention, admitted to using the ATM cards to withdraw Rupee from Jaigaon. He then sold the Rupee at 7.5 to 8 percent above the exchange rate and paid five percent commission to ATM cardholders. His monthly transaction amounted to INR 2.86 million with a monthly income of INR 0.3 million.

In an earlier interview, ACC officials said that the 20 ATM cardholders had taken out INR 9.9 million this year. As of yesterday, more than 50 Bhutanese cardholders were interrogated. The commission is also reportedly looking into the possible collusion among officials from the bank, trade and revenue and customs officials with the importers.

“It is going to take sometime to interrogate all ATM card holders,” an ACC commissioner said. The Bhutanese account holders will be charged for active and passive commercial bribery and for aiding and abetting the crime.

The commission, which launched an investigation since April 20 into the complex issues of money laundering, uncovered millions of INR repatriated through such fraudulent practices over the past three years.

ACC also found that some non-Bhutanese in connivance with Bhutanese clearing agents have forged and tampered Bhutanese customs documents and repatriated millions of INR by ways of real time gross settlement (RTGS), demand draft (DD) and telegraph transfer (TT).

Meanwhile, the owner of the Jatan Prasad Lal Chand Prasad (JPLP) departmental store, Lal Chand, is still in custody. Lal Chand was detained by the ACC since June 17 for evading tax through false invoicing and declaration amounting to more than Nu 184M. Lal Chand’s case along with other four enterprises was registered with the Phuentsholing dungkhag court on September 4.

A Thimphu based businessman said last evening that bribery is still rampant in Phuentsholing and happening right under the ACC’s nose. He said that he had to pay Nu 45,000 to a middleman to clear his goods imported from India recently.

“ACC director is sitting in one room interrogating a suspect and bribery is taking place in the other room,” he said. “These are happening because they are taking advantage of so many loopholes in the tax administration,” he said. “The system needs to be streamlined.”

Meanwhile, ACC will auction the remaining grocery goods worth Nu 15M from the eight business entities on September 18 followed by hardware goods. More than Nu 16M worth of goods were auctioned earlier on August 31 and September 1.

Rinzin Wangchuk 

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