Dechen Dolkar 

A conman, who is currently studying and living in Brisbane, has duped many Bhutanese promising accommodations and on the pretext of exchanging Australian Dollars (AUD) for Ngultrums.

Rinchen Dendup, 30, from Drepong gewog, Mongar went to Australia three years ago. He was a former employee of a private bank in Thimphu.

It was learned that he has duped many Bhutanese living in Bhutan and Australia especially newcomers in Australia.

The victims, Kuensel talked to, said that before going to Australia, he asked to borrow money from them and to be repaid when he reached Australia. However, after reaching Australia he blocked them on social media and never answered their calls.

The Bhutan Embassy in Canberra has received complaints from five individuals affected by the fraudulent actions of one Bhutanese based in Brisbane. However, it was learned there were more than five victims.

A victim who is in Bhutan said that a month ago he posted that he was looking for accommodation in Brisbane for his nephew and Rinchen Dendup messaged privately on his social media account saying that he has room for rent. He even sent a small video clip showing the room.

The victim, as Rinchin Dendup asked, deposited AUD 460 as a bond and AUD 230 as two-week rent in his Bhutan National Bank account in Ngultrum at Nu 58 exchange rate. “I deposited Nu 40,020 in his BNB account in June.”

The victim said that again in July, Rinchen Dendup asked for additional two-week rent amounting to AUD 230. When his nephew reached Brisbane on July 15, the accommodation that Rinchen Dendup promised was given to another Bhutanese couple who had arrived two months ago. He collected another AUD 850 from the couple and the money was not deposited to the landlord. 

Another victim in Brisbane said that she was a good friend of Rinchen Dendup. After reaching Brisbane, Rinchen Dendup asked her to exchange Ngultrum for AUD. She saved the money to pay her tuition fees and to buy a car.

She transferred Nu 500,000 to the account given by Rinchen Dendup, which belonged to another person. She said that the account holder deposited AUD 9,500 in Rinchen Dendup’s account. 

“Rinchen Dendup sent a fake screenshot of the transaction to me claiming that he has deposited money to my account,” she said. 

She said that his social media accounts are deactivated, his mobile number is ‘not working’ and he even moved out of the previous address. 

The victim said that the victims even reported to Embassy and police in Brisbane. However, the police said that since it is a civil case, they cannot register the case.

Victims also claimed that Embassy in Canberra was not taking any action.

The victims also said that he deceived the Bhutanese pretending to help them find a job. However, when their money was deposited in his account, he never gives money to them.

Another victim in Perth said that before he travelled to Australia in May this year, he transferred Nu 500,000 to Rinchen Dendup’s account for exchange of AUD.  He promised to transfer AUD 10,000. “When we contact him his mobile number is not working and after requesting to transfer back, he transferred Nu 50,000 only and the rest still I didn’t get,” he said. 

It was learnt there are around four victims in Perth, some paid for flight tickets, some for exchanging AUD with Ngultrum, and others paid for accommodation.  

An official from Embassy said that the embassy was still in the process of gathering all the relevant information and once it is completed, they will determine the right course of action in consultation with the affected individuals and relevant agencies in Bhutan and Australia. 

The official also said that this is not an isolated incident and the Embassy is receiving increasing reports of Bhutanese being involved in similar cases, both as victims and perpetrators. 

The Embassy has been cautioning the Bhutanese community in Australia to exercise due diligence when engaging in monetary exchanges and transactions, particularly when exchanging currency through informal channels, which is a common avenue used for such fraudulent practices.

The victims have also filed complaints to Thimphu and Paro police. 

It was also learnt that the Mongar court issued an arrest warrant against Rinchen Dendup on May 23, this year.