The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) yesterday seized the stock balance of dredged materials worth millions of Ngultrums at Amochhu dredging site, popularly known as Toorsa, in Phuentsholing.

The dredged materials belong to three construction firms – Rigsar Construction, Yangkhil Construction, and Chukha Construction.

According to the seizure notice the commission issued, the stock balance of dredged materials were seized with immediate effect from April 11 as per the power conferred by section 103 of the Anti-Corruption Act (ACA) of Bhutan 2011.

“In the course of an investigation into an offence under this Act, any movable property which the commission has reasonable grounds to suspect to be the subject matter of an offence or evidence relating to the offence shall be liable to seizure,” stated the seizure notice.

The notice shall remain effective until such time the commission revokes by superseding the order or upon completion of legal proceedings, whichever comes earlier.

ACC officials refused to comment on the status of investigation. However, Kuensel learnt that the commission seized the stock balance of dredged materials collected from Toorsa river after finding the prima facie of fraudulent practices and bribery of public servants.

The work, “diversion of the Toorsa river to its original course” was awarded to Rigsar Construction on a pro-bono basis in December 2016 by the Phuentsholing Thromde.

It was agreed that the contractor would keep the dredged materials from the diversion works. The measure was taken to save Toorsa from the 2017 monsoon as the flood in 2016 severely affected Toorsa embankment and many business establishments along its banks. 

The dredging work was supposed to be completed before the onset of the next monsoon but the work continued for a longer duration, according to sources. The time to keep the dredged material along the Toorsa embankment was one year starting from December 2016.

However, the dredged materials are still at the site today.

Kuensel sources said that the Phuentsholing Thromde and Construction Development Corporation Limited (CDCL) had exchanged several letters in 2017 after the site was not emptied.  The CDCL wanted to take over the area for the Amochhu township development project and start construction in October 2017.

Kuensel sources also said that as Rigsar started dredging and exporting, it sub-contracted the work to Yangkhil Construction. Chukha construction in the meantime was awarded dredging job for the same cause of preventing floods on a pro-bono basis. All three started exporting the dredged materials.

During the course of investigation, the commission on March 8 detained the proprietor of Rigsar Construction and former Phuentsholing thromde’s executive secretary for “suspected bribery of public officials” and alleged collusion in river diversion and dredging works. Both were reportedly released after interrogation.

Rigsar Construction’s proprietor was released on March 10, while the former thromde executive secretary, the current director general of the department of revenue and customs, was released on March 12.

Rinzin Wangchuk