Case forwarded to Thimphu dzongkhag court
Yangchen C Rinzin
The proprietors of the Bhutan Employment Overseas (BEO), Tenzin Rigden and Jurmey Tshewang were charged for 2,887 counts of forgery in connection to the Learn and Earn programme in Japan.
The case was forwarded to the Thimphu dzongkhag court yesterday after about a month of investigation by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG).
OAG charged the two for 697 counts of forgery for forging bank balance of the youth who applied to go to Japan through the BEO using Bank of Bhutan’s seal. The BEO used the bank balance statement as evidence to help the youth get Japanese visa.
They are also charged 2,190 counts of forgery for forging payslips of the youth’s guardians and another 730 counts of larceny by deception for illegally charging each youth a translation fee of Nu 7,500.
The BEO did not have evidence to show how the translation fees were used.
The state prosecutor submitted to court to refund every youth the Nu 7,500 fee, which amounts to Nu 5,475,000.
The OAG also charged nine other staff of the BEO.
The OAG took up the case following a petition submitted by the parents’ representatives and youth sent to Japan through LEP to the Chief of Police on June 27 to investigate the case. Police forwarded the case to the OAG on October 23.
Although the parents had submitted five allegations, police had dropped two. However, police included two additional charges, one of official misconduct against director general Sherab Tenzin for failing to monitor the programme and larceny by deception on different counts against the two proprietors.
Of the nine employees charged, the OAG charged an employee for forgery. He was involved in forging the bank seal. OAG stated that the employee had scanned the BOB seal, photoshopped and used on the bank statements. He had also used fake appointment letters of the guardians using Microsoft Words following the CEOs’ instructions.
The other eight staff were for aiding and abetting forgery. Following the instructions, the staff were either involved in helping to put fake bank balance and payslip figures or preparing fake documents.
However, OAG dropped charges of larceny by deception on visa, airfare, insurance fee and documentation fee against the CEOs on the grounds of lack of evidence. It also dropped the charge of deceptive practice against the CEOs for not informing the labour ministry regarding the change in principal agent and other information.
The OAG further dropped the official misconduct charges against director general Sherab Tenzin. It was dropped on the grounds that there were no specific failure or lapses found in monitoring since they have redressed to the complains whenever it was reported to the ministry.
An aiding and abetting charge against two other staff involved was dropped due to lack of evidence.
Meanwhile, attorney general (AG) Shera Lhendup said that OAG has deferred the charges against four more staff since they are currently out of station. OAG has to produce them in person at the time of filling charges to the court. Two staff are currently in Japan while another two in Australia.
A separate case would be charged after getting their representatives confirmed through Power of Attorney to represent them in the court.
“The BEO license is registered in the name of Jurmey Tshewang and Tenzin Rigden and entire offences were committed under the direct instructions of the two proprietors,” he said.
The AG added that OAG found the proposed charges were based on the same modus operandi of the offence and that police sent only 53 forged commercial documents and one copy of the forged payslip to the OAG.
“The actual requirement to prove each count of the forgery against each defendant was 730 forged commercial documents and 2,190 forged payslips,” he said. “So, to speed up the process, apart from asking police, the dealing attorneys of the OAG collected additional evidence and reviewed the entire case.”
Earlier the Anti-Corruption Commission had dropped the BEO case even after the parents had appealed for re-investigation reasoning no wrongdoing were found and that it was an administrative case.
“Unlike ACC, our police force is not specifically trained to investigate corruption cases, however, when the same matter was investigated by the police, they found out forgery, multiple counts of larceny by deceptions committed by the proprietors and employees under their instructions.”
The AG also took a dig at the ACC in dropping the case. “It is for the public to judge whether there has been a serious dereliction of duty on the part of ACC, as it is quite a spin to have those multiple smoking-guns evade the otherwise omni-eagle eyes of the ACC.”
OAG has appointed three prosecutors for this case.