Bench II of the High Court on January 24 held a preliminary hearing for one of the accused officials in the DeSuung embezzlement case, Major Ugyen Lhendup.

The military court last month sentenced him to two years and six months including an administrative action that terminated him without any benefits. He submitted to the High Court that the judgment was based on the statements given by the shopkeepers to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).

The military court in Lungtengphug last month, found 15 army officers (ranked between lieutenant and Lieutenant Colonels), nine Non-Commissioned Officers and 16 shopkeepers guilty of various charges including embezzlement, aiding and abiding, and solicitation. The individuals appealed against the military court’s judgment and each of the three benches of the High Court has five cases.

Ugyen Lhendup said the statements were taken against law because the ACC had detained some shopkeepers for interrogation while others were interrogated on different occasions and place. He said the military court did not refer any statements and bills he submitted.

“I did not confess to the crime during interrogation but when the military court’s judgment was out, it looked like I had confessed to the crime in my statement submitted to the ACC,” he said. “What I understood was that there was no problem in the first batch because they were provided with experienced accountants or finance officer. But we did not receive any kind of support or help and we were inexperienced.”

Ugyen Lhendup said that whenever there were any entertainment programmes, cash soelra was given to the entertainers and later adjusted with other bills. He submitted that such practice has existed. “Sometimes we also buy from open market that don’t have cash memos,” he said.

He also submitted to court that the charges did not state about terminating them without benefits. “However, the court terminated us without benefits and we’re all worried because we don’t know where to go.”

Those involved, who were terminated, have to vacate their living quarters by the end of next month.

However, he requested the High Court to issue an interim order to reinstate the accused.  “Since they terminated us without any strong evidence, we want to appeal the high court to revoke the military court’s judgment and allow us to continue our service in the army,” Ugyen Lhendup said.

The judge said that the case is still on going and it is not within the High Court’s purview to issue an interim order or revoke the military court’s judgment.

“We cannot do anything until due process is over,” the judge said, reminding both parties that the court is not an appropriate place to seek kidu. “We have to follow the due process of the law.”

RBA’s prosecutor said the military court followed all judicial proceedings and that administrative action taken was based on the laws and rules in place for RBA personnel.

RBA prosecutors will rebut on March 5.

Yangchen C Rinzin