Major Sonam Tshering, one of the accused officials in the DeSuung embezzlement case, appealed to the High Court’s Bench II on January 25, saying that he was dissatisfied with the military court judgment passed last December.

The military court sentenced him to three years with termination without benefits.

Sonam Tshering submitted to the court that the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) had interrogated the witness under duress. He added that one of the shopkeepers, Karna Bahadhur Kharka, was kept in detention for more than a month and another shopkeeper, Tsheten Dorji, was interrogated for two days.

“Karna Bahadhur had said that he must have received payment between Nu 900,000 to Nu 1,050,000 only while Tsheten Dorji had said that about Nu 125,000 was adjusted. How can court treat the shopkeepers’ assumption as evidence?” he asked. “I am also doubtful if ACC recorded voices of the witnesses as it claimed.”

He said that military court did not even call the witnesses. The court based the judgment on the statement submitted by the ACC given by the two witnesses. The court did not prove beyond reasonable doubt.

“The military court also did not consider the two percent TDS of the total expenditure that was paid to the RRCO. Embezzlement amount was based on the entire expenditure incurred,” he appealed. He said that if a ration bill is Nu 1,000, only 800 worth of ration was spent, the balance ration is returned to the shopkeepers, but the court considered embezzlement amount based on the actual bill instead of the total bill spent.”

Sonam Tshering added that the military court did not even consider the military internal audit and Royal Audit Authority’s investigation.

Sonam Tshering said that during the training, as per the activities, sometimes the bills were adjusted to buy restricted items like liquors, for cash soelras paid to the dancers, and to buy grilled fish and honey, which were bought based on the order he received.

“I didn’t submit the bill because there was no orders to submit the bill,” he said. “Earlier, there was no proper SOP and guidelines for management of mess in integrated DeSuung programme 2017, but still I fulfilled my responsibility.”

He also said that although the case is under trial, the military court has issued an order to vacate their quarters. He said that this was against the law and that he was not even allowed a jabmi although  individual has a right for jabmi as per the Constitution.

Sonam Tshering also questioned the credibility of the court officials because his sentences was reduced to three years from four and half years.

“I appeal to the court to order Royal Bhutan Army to dismiss the military court judgment, cancel termination order and reinstate us with all the benefits. I also appeal the high court to consider my subordinate who is also implicated in the case because he was just following my order.”

Another accused, Pelpon Tangka, who has also appealed to the high court, said that he was only following the orders of his officer and had no connection with the budget.

He was given one year in prison and terminated without any benefits.

The RBA prosecutor is expected to rebut on March 12.

Yangchen C Rinzin