In the preliminary hearing of the Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) versus Major Jurmey case at the High Court’s bench I yesterday, the defendant asked the prosecutor to prove how he embezzled the amount he was charged for.

Major Jurmey was convicted of embezzling Nu 174,000 from the DeSuung training programme fund by the Lungtengphug military court in December last year.

He served as the administration officer for the sixth batch DeSuung training programme, which was conducted for two weeks with a total fund of Nu 1.5M.

Claiming that he did not embezzle the fund but a shortage arose because of the adjustment he had to make to procure imported alcohol, prohibited items and give cash prizes.

He submitted, both in writing and verbally, that the fund shortage could have also been because of his lack of experience in administration. “Adjustment is made everywhere and it should not amount to criminal misconduct, as I never had a criminal intention to embezzle the fund.”

While laws mandate a person to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, he said that the lower court convicted him based on the vendors’ statement given to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) under duress. “I was denied the benefit of the doubt.”

He said that the lower court convicted him as per the Army Act and Penal Code of Bhutan by taking the ACC’s statement as the truth.

Major Jurmey also alleged that the DeSuung training programme lacked standard operating procedure (SOP) and that he based its functioning purely on the order of his superiors and former administrative officers.

He also alleged that the lower court did not provide him with the choice of legal representative. “It violated my fundamental rights and fair trial and fair judgment. I feel I was convicted because I could not represent myself well.”

RBA’s prosecutor, Captain Kinga Tenzin, said administrative officers have sole authority and they need not consult anyone. “The court should conduct the investigation properly.”

The prosecutors will rebut on February 12.

Meanwhile, the court explained it is an open trial and that the litigants have the right to an uninterrupted hearing.

The litigants were reminded of perjury and the need to prove their submissions and stand so that it is proven beyond reasonable doubt.

The court also stated that the army court judgment is in abeyance and the defendants are assumed innocent until proven guilty. “The burden of proof falls on the prosecutor.”

The court also stated that the litigants could submit any issue and evidence that are not availed in the lower court.

Tashi Dema