Court defers Tango case for lack of evidence

Theft: Citing lack of adequate evidence, Thimphu dzongkhag court’s bench I, deferred the case of the gold butter lamp of Tango monastery last week.

Prosecutors from the Office of the Attorney General charged two drivers of Tango and Cheri monasteries for allegedly stealing the 135-tola (1,574 grams) of gold butter lamp from Tango monastery last year.

Unless the prosecutors provide additional evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt, the case for now has been deferred, the verdict stated.  It stated that confessions made by Yeshi Dendup couldn’t be fully comprehended as he had submitted before the court that he had confessed under duress and torture.

The verdict also stated that, the main accused had never accepted to court that Phurba Tshering conspired or planned the crime.

Citing inadequate proof with evidence and corroborative evidence from the prosecutors, the court is in doubt on the charges made against Yeshi Dendup, the verdict stated.

The verdict also stated that there was no proof to substantiate, if Yeshi Dendup was the actual person to meet the antique dealer called Tshewang Rinzin in Phuentsholing, since there was no call record as proof.

On the charges made against Phurba Tshering for plotting the crime, both Yeshey Dendup and Phurba Tshering denied the charges. Their statements submitted to police on July 24 and August 4, 2014 also contradicted.

The incident occurred on the night of March 4, 2014, when a miscreant broke into the Tango monastery’s Jowo Lhakhang and robbed the gold butter lamp.

Police, after intensive investigation, narrowed their search to an antique dealer in Phuentsholing, who was approached by the two drivers, enquiring if he was interested to buy an antique.

It was learnt that the antique dealer in Phuentsholing identified the Chari monastery driver, after police brought him to Thimphu to identity the suspect.

In the initial investigation, the Cheri monastery driver not only confessed to the crime, but had also alleged that the Tango monastery driver was the mastermind, and that the butter lamp was also with the Tango driver.  He told police that the Tango monastery driver, who knows the details of the butter lamp, instructed him on how to steal it.

Police charged the Cheri driver with burglary, in accordance to section 235 of the Penal Code.

The Tango driver, who was a suspect since the butter lamp went missing, was charged for violating four sections of the penal code – aiding and abetting the crime, solicitation, criminal conspiracy and possession of stolen property.

The 65th Je Khenpo, Yeshey Singay, offered a 20-tola gold lamp to the monastery in 1964.  Students and teachers of Tango monastery added 44-tola in 1987.  The butter lamp was recast with another 71 tola of gold from public donation in 2006.

The lamp was big enough to hold 1.5kg of butter and could burn for 48 hours.

Tashi Tenzin

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