18 importers and two truck drivers were convicted and imposed a fine of Nu 0.968M

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) on December 28 wrote to Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to auction confiscated goods worth Nu 1.571 million in connection with the sales tax evaded by 18 importers.

The letter was sent to the commission after the Phuentsholing drungkhag court ordered ACC and OAG to jointly auction the confiscated goods of the defendants and to submit the amounts realised from auctioning seized goods.

“Therefore, you are kindly requested to auction the confiscated goods and provide us the amount realised from auctioning the goods at your earliest convenience,” OAG’s chief prosecutor Kinley Tenzin stated in the letter sent to ACC.

As per the directives issued by the Supreme Court, OAG is responsible for implementation of court judgment. ACC officials said that they would discuss with OAG this week and come out with proper understanding of their responsibilities.

Meanwhile, the drungkhag court not only convicted 18 importers and two truck drivers as per the charges labelled against them, but also ordered them to restitute fines and penalties based on the computation made on the value added tax evaded. The defendants were asked to pay 50 percent on evaded tax as penalties and another 24 percent as fine for late payment of sale tax.

All importers, business entities based in Thimphu, were convicted and sentenced for a prison term ranging from month to five months for not declaring their consignments worth Nu 1.571 million and for knowingly and purposely evading sales tax at the Regional Revenue and Customs office’s in Phuentsholing on November 21, 2014.

S.P. Enterprise received the maximum sentence of five months and was imposed fine of Nu 481,499 for not declaring its consignments worth Nu 0.804 million. Nima Tshongkhang was convicted for two and half months and was imposed penalty of Nu 86,607. Nangsa Garments, Thinley Tshongkhag, and Sangay Bida Tshongkhag got prison term of two months each.

The rest of the importers – R.R. Tshongkhang, Pema Sales, Sheecha Enterprise, Lungta Handicrafts, Om Tara Handicraft, Om Tara Handicraft, Home Collection, Leki Dorji Tshongkhang, Dawa Tshongkhang, Sangay Choden Tshongkhang, Jasman Metal Casting, Ugyen Dema and Rita were imprisoned for one month each. However, all convicts were given option to pay thrimthue in lieu of imprisonment.

Two truck drivers – Karma Dorji and Mohan Lal Koirala – transported the consignments from Phuentsholing to Thimphu and both were convicted two and half months each.

The ACC had recommended the OAG to charge the jumbo-truck driver Karma Dorji with 16 counts of participation in an offence, and the DCM truck driver Mohan Lal Koirala with 10 counts of the same offence. However, the OAG charged them only for participation in an offence.

The investigation established that the two drivers were not mere transporters for importers, but were agents with close relationship with inspectors and suppliers across the border. They were capable of negotiating with inspectors to ‘mis-declare’ the consignments they transport.

Two regional revenue and customs’ inspectors were also charged for knowingly abusing their functions by omitting to assess and verify when one of the drivers declared consignments of importers at the entry gate in Phuentsholing.

However, the OAG prosecutor said that the judgment of the two inspectors is yet to be pronounced by the court.

The ACC began investigation after receiving a complaint alleging that a Jumbo truck and DCM were transporting goods from Phuentsholing to Thimphu without declaring taxes at the point of entry on November 21, 2014.

During the course of investigation, the commission interrogated 29 individuals and two persons were detained and released on execution of bond.

The investigation established that the importers ordered their goods from Delhi, Siliguri and Jaigaon, India. The goods were sent by the suppliers and transported by the Jumbo-truck driver from Jaigaon to Thimphu. Having worked closely, the driver in question had gained the confidence of the importers who then requested him to declare their goods and pay taxes.

As a regular transporter, the driver also knew inspectors and developed close acquaintances through which he knew their duty rosters, enabling him to negotiate with them for consideration.

The OAG filed the case before the drungkhag court against all the defendants on June 5, 2017.

Rinzin Wangchuk