The proprietor of Rigsar Construction and former Phuentsholing thromde’s executive secretary were released last week after the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) detained them for about five days.

Both men were detained for interrogation on March 8 for “suspected  bribery of public officials” and alleged collusion in Toorsa diversion and dredging works.

The commission released Rigsar Construction’s proprietor, who was detained in Phuentsholing after ACC raided the construction site at Toorsa riverbank on March 10. The former thromde’s executive secretary, who is the current director general of the department of revenue and customs, was detained in Thimphu and sent home on March 12.

ACC officials confirmed that they were released from detention. However, they refused to share details saying that the commission has just begun investigating into the alleged bribery and collusion.

The Anti-Corruption Act of Bhutan (ACAB) empowers the commission  to arrest and detain any person without warrant upon reasonable suspicion of the person having committed or being about to commit an offence under the Act. The commission can also arrest any person who has interfered with a potential witness or intends to destroy evidence.

According to Kuensel sources, the ACC is reportedly looking into how the dredging works at Toorsa river were awarded to Rigsar Construction and to ascertain whether there was a fraudulent practice involving active and passive bribery of public servants.

ACAB states that active bribery of public servant means a person who promises, offers or gives an advantage to a public servant as an inducement to or reward for or otherwise on account of such public servant. A public servant who solicits or accepts an advantage as an inducement to or reward for or otherwise on account of such public servant is construed as passive bribery of public servant.

Thromde and other relevant stakeholders had given the dredging works to Rigsar Construction towards the end of 2016. The measure was taken to save the Toorsa from 2017 monsoon as the flood in monsoon 2016 had severely affected Toorsa embankment and many business establishments along it.

Rigsar Construction had taken the job as a pro-bono basis, wherein it would fully fund the diversion work without any fund from thromde. It was agreed that the contractor would keep the dredged materials from the diversion works.

Although the ACC is yet to establish the allegations, sources say that they are suspecting that the contractor may have involved in the illegal transaction of dredged materials collected from the diversion without paying royalty.

Rinzin Wangchuk