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All four implicated in the case found guilty, sentenced to prison term from five to 10 years

Rinzin Wangchuk 

The Thimphu Dzongkhag Court yesterday brought the curtains down on the case concerning the commission of criminal conspiracy, mutiny, abettor of mutiny and other criminal offences involving the senior-most serving justice of the Supreme Court, a district court judge, a former Royal Body Guard commandant and a woman.

All the four defendants were found guilty and sentenced to  prison terms ranging from five to 10 years for the offenses of colluding and criminal conspiracy to overthrow the Chief Operations Officer (COO) of the Royal Bhutan Army.

The criminal bench of Thimphu court convicted Supreme Courtjustice Kuenlay Tshering, and the Pemagatshel dzongkhag drangpon, Yeshey Dorji, to five years prison term. The maximum sentences were handed down to former RBG Commandant, Brigadier Thinley Tobgye and Khandu Wangmo with a prison term of 10 years and nine years respectively.

The court took six hours to pronounce the 1,062-page judgment which also convicted Thinley Tobgye, Khandu Wangmo and Yeshey Dorji for other offenses apart from the  aforementioned crime.

 

Defendant Khandu Wangmo

Khandu Wangmo, popularly known as Bumden Khandu, was found guilty of abetting Thinley Tobgye in the mutiny to overthrow the RBA’s COO, in collusion with Justice Kuenlay Tshering and Drangpon Yeshey  Dorji. The criminal conspiracy dates back to 2015 when Bumden Khandu and her ex-boyfriend, Col. Karma Loday Samphel of RBA, didn’t get along and lived separately.

The judgment stated that Bumden then reported to the Goongloen about Karma Loday Samphel’s misconduct and asked him to take action against the Colonel.  However, Goongloen defended Karma Loday Samphel instead of taking action. To take revenge against Goongloen Batoo Tshering, Khandu Wangmo solicited Thinley Tobgye to illegally obtain classified confidential UN tender documents from RBA and other information of the RBA management and Goongloen’s personal details.

The defendant in collusion with three other defendants then framed corruption allegations to overthrow Goongloen and posted through the Bhutan Post addressed to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC). “It was proven beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant has committed the offense of abettor of mutiny for which she was convicted for five years,” the court stated in its judgment.

Khandu Wangmo also received five year prison term each for criminal misappropriation of property and larceny by deception. The defendant, in collusion with Thinley Tobgye, had unlawfully misappropriated Nu 6.5 million (M) from the RBG fund. Colluding with her former husband, Drangpon Yeshey Dorji, she also deceptively availed a loan of Nu 8M from Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan Limited (RICBL) on the pretext of starting businesses.

The court also gave her a three-year prison term each for illegal possession of firearms and impersonation of uniformed personnel. She was found guilty in illegal possession of a Glock 19 pistol illegally issued by Thinley Tobgye in 2017. Although Khandu Wangmo was not in the armed forces, she was found guilty of wearing a Brigadier-rank SD suit with full insignia issued by Thinley Tobgye.  The court also established from the message exchanged between Thinley Tobgye and Yeshey Dorji that they organised a simple ceremony “to offer khadar to Brigadier Khandu Wangmo.”

Altogether, she was sentenced to 21 years in prison. However, since her highest offence was abettor of mutiny, the court issued concurrent sentencing which means she has to serve a prison term of nine years.

However, Khandu Wangmo can pay thrimthue in lieu of three other imprisonments for solicitation of official misconduct and harassment. She received a six-month-prison term each for knowingly using unauthorised RBG vehicle, a ToyotaPrado,and army personnel for her personal use and illegally obtaining classified confidential UN tender documents from RBA. She was also found guilty of harassing and threatening Col. Karma Loday Samphel and for subjecting him to emotional and mental distress.

The court also gave her the benefit of doubts by dismissing three charges framed by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG). The court found there was no nepotism and favoritism as charged by OAG in awarding of Chevening Scholarship, claims of soliciting Justice Kuenlay Tshering to unlawfully direct the judge of the Family and Child Bench of Thimphu Dzongkhag Court to defer the arrest warrant issued against her for a judgment enforcementand for soliciting Justice Kuenlay Tshering’s help  to unlawfully obstruct the legitimate claim of USD12,000 by  a foreigner, Sothy Toep.

Defendant Thinley Tobgye

Thinley Tobgye was also given a concurrent sentence of 10 years although he was liable for 17 years for his involvement in mutiny, criminal misappropriation of property, aiding and abetting to the illegal possession of firearm and impersonation of uniform personnel.

He is convicted to nine years for mutiny. In collusion with Justice Kuenley Tshering, Khandu Wangmo and Drangpon Yeshey Dorji, Thinley Tobgye had “conspired and committed mutiny to overthrow Goongloen Batoo Tshering with his personal intent to replace the former.” He also received a five-year prison term for misappropriating Nu 6M from the RBG fund, which he gave to Khandu Wamgmo.

The court also convicted him for misusing official vehicle and army personnel for personal use of Khandu Wangmo and obtaining classified confidential UN tender documents illegally from RBA. He was sentenced to one year each in prison for which he can pay thrimthue. He is allowed to pay thrimthrue for six months for the conviction of harassment.

Defendants Kuenlay Tshering and Yeshey Dorji

Justice Kuenlay Tshering was found guilty  for editing documents regarding the corruption allegations against the COO of the RBA that was sent to the ACC and for conducting several discreet meetings in collusion with other three defendants and draftingunsubstantiated allegations against General Batoo Tshering.

However, the court dismissed two other charges of commission amounting to abuse of functions and obstructions of lawful authorities.

Drangpon Yeshey Dorji was also convicted five years for mutiny. The court established that he posted the documents anonymously to the ACC for investigations. He received three more years for deceptively availing a loan amounting Nu 8M from RICBL by  submitting documents of fictitious shopkeepers alongside mortgaging his parents land in Gelephu. He availed the loan to repay the Nu 6.5M that Khandu Wangmo had borrowed from the RBG’s commandant.

He was also given a concurrent sentencing of five years.

Case background

On July 9, 2020, Yeshey Dorji filed a Crime Information Report (CIR) of Impersonation of Uniformed Personnel and Deceptive Practice against Khandu Wangmo and the former Brigadier Thinley Tobgye  to the Crime Branch of the Royal Bhutan Police. Three months later, Col. Karma Loday Samphel had also lodged a written complaint to RBP  against Khandu Wangmo and Thinley Tobgye for harassing him for a period of seven months.

Based on the formal complaints, RBP carried out detailed investigation which revealed that Khandu Wangmo in collusion with Justice Kuenlay Tshering, Drangpon Yeshey Dorji and Thinley Tobgye were found to be involved in the commission of Criminal Conspiracy of Mutiny and Abettor of Mutiny, and other criminal offenses over four years starting from 2015 till 2018, which were planned discreetly.

The offences they committed were established through their voluntary confessional written statements to the RBP corroborated by the collation of documentary and electronic evidence forwarded to the OAG. The criminal conspiracy and the intent to achieve personal gratification of replacing the Army Chief, Supreme Court Chief Justice and Registrar General were corroborated by numerous incriminating evidences, detailed records of discrete meetings, well-planned and final lodging of unsubstantiated written allegation against the Chief of Army.

Khandu Wangmo, meanwhile is also charged for a separate sedition case at the same court.

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