ACC to prosecute Lhakhang Karpo case in High Court

For the sake of fairness, the OAG has decided to hand over the case to the ACC
Appeal: The Office of the Attorney General  (OAG) and the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) will appeal to the High Court against the Haa district court’s judgment after reviewing the acquittal verdicts of the foreign minister and the project manager in the Lhakhang Karpo conservation project case.
Attorney General Shera Lhendup, however, said that the OAG is appealing the High Court as advised by the commission, who will also prepare its grounds for appeal. One of the OAG prosecutors will be in Haa court today to submit appeal petitions against foreign minister Rinzin Dorje, project manager Wangchuk Tshering and project engineer Tashi Gyeltshen.
The OAG has decided to hand over the case to ACC when it reaches the appellate court.  Attorney General Shera Lhendup said the decision was reached after a letter from the commission hinted that they might prosecute the case.
“In the interest of justice, it would be best if the appeal prosecution is carried out by the ACC itself because of involvement of a cabinet minister,” Shera Lhendup said.  “Conflict of interest is perceptively best avoided if the prosecution is continued by the ACC.”
He said that any political misconception in the due process of law must be avoided by adjusting to such circumstances as in the present case.  The AG declined to share whether the case merits an appeal to the higher court. But he said that the OAG reserves its opinion on the case for the sake of fairness.
ACC chairperson Dasho Neten Zangmo wrote to the AG yesterday stating that taking full cognisance of the OAG’s position on the case, the commission is concerned that the OAG is only going to appeal on its behalf and not because OAG believes that there is a ground for appeal.
“Such a situation inherently and seriously complicates matters, besides it may undermine further prosecution of the case by the OAG,” the letter stated. “Further, the very rationale of neutrality that OAG explains for such a situation will also be undermined if it prosecutes the case.”
It also stated that pursuing a case that OAG is not convinced of will lack ownership and would tantamount to planning to fail. “For the commission, reasoning takes precedence over personalities and political association,” the ACC letter stated.
“In view of the foregoing reasons, the commission believes that it may be advisable for the OAG to allow it to appeal and to also prosecute the case,” the letter, which is also copied to the Prime Minister stated. “In the event that commission prosecutes the case, all documents submitted to the Haa court will be required for its review and appropriate course of action.”
The letter stated that this is the second time such a situation has arisen, regardless of how the OAG handled the case then or is handling this case now. It stated that in a way, it might appear to strengthen check and balance in a democracy and that professional deliberation on the issue may be warranted for the future.
“The commission looks forward to working with you in fulfilling His Majesty’s aspiration of building a vibrant democracy for a prosperous, harmonious and secure nation in collective, small and humble ways,” the letter stated.
In an earlier interview, ACC officials said that the nature and gravity of Lhakhang Karpo construction case was similar to Gyalpoizhing land case. “In fact, the Lhakhang Karpo case was more serious than Gyalpoizhing as it involved fraudulent awarding of timber sawing work and abusing procurement manual of 2009,” an ACC official had said.
On June 23, the court acquitted foreign minister Rinzin Dorje, who was charged for omission amounting to abuse of functions and embezzlement of public property when he was the Haa dzongdag.
The verdict stated that the decision to award the contract at the original rate was not unilateral but signed by eight committee members, who were testified before the court. It also stated that the prosecutors failed to convince the court that the defendant committed an offence amounting to abuse of functions beyond reasonable doubt.
An OAG prosecutor said they are appealing for the legitimacy of the document, which was submitted as evidence where eight of the 11-committee members had signed on.
The OAG also appeals against the verdict of project manager Wangchuk Tshering, who was also acquitted after the court could not establish that he had a ‘criminal intent’ to embezzle funds.
The OAG is also appealing against the verdict of project engineer Tashi Gyeltshen, for considering Nu 100,000 as security deposit for un-sieved sand. Haa court has already sentenced him to two years six months for accepting a Samsung galaxy phone as bribe and forgery.
By Rinzin Wangchuk

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