Bumthang court, on May 12, sentenced a 19-year-old monk to life imprisonment for stealing a 12-eyed dzee (cat eye) from Jampa lhakhang.

The court also sentenced two taxi drivers in Bumthang, Sonam Dorji and Tshewang Gyaltshen, a Bumthang businessman, Sangay Wangchuk, and a non-Bhutanese, Tshering Nima, to two to 11 years in prison.

The court passed the in absentia judgement to Tshewang Gyaltshen since he absconded the country.

The monk, Lham Rinchen, from Baling in Trongsa was found guilty of stealing the dzee from the Jowo Jampa, the main statue of the lhakhang.

The monk, who was assisting the Jampa lhakhang dzongpon, stole the dzee on May 14 last year on the request of a taxi driver from Bumthang.

The court verdict stated that the monk was appointed to the post with trust and responsibility of maintaining the security of the lhakhang. “The person entrusted with such responsibility breached the trust,” it stated.

The verdict stated that Lham Rinchen had taken Nu 300,000 from a taxi driver, Sonam Dorji.

It was found that the monk had taken the money even before the dzee was sold to Sonam Dorji and bought a WagonR with the money.

The verdict stated that the WagonR that was confiscated by police, to be sold through auction and the money should be refunded to the government. “Lham Rinchen will have to top up if the car does not fetch the amount and he would be given the remaining if it fetches more.”

The other defendant, Sonam Dorji received two prison terms.

He was imprisoned for seven years for asking Lham Rinchen to bring antics like the dzee, pearls and copper statues knowing that Lham Rinchen was working in Jampa lhakhang.

Sonam Dorji was given an additional four years imprisonment for taking the dzee to Phuentsholing with Tshewang Gyeltshen and Sangay Wangchuk where it was sold to Tshering Nima, who is a non-Bhutanese.

The three men sold the dzee to Tshering Nima in Phuentsholing at Nu 2 million (M) and Sonam Dorji paid Nu 100,000 each to Tshewang Gyeltshen and Sangay Wangchuk as a commission for helping him sell the dzee.

Sonam Dorji will have to serve 10 years, eight months and 12 days in prison after deducting the days he had already served under detention while the case was under trial.

The court also asked Sonam Dorji to pay Nu1.5M of the Nu 2M to the government.

The verdict stated that the properties he purchased with the money should be auctioned to recover the Nu 1.5M.

The non-Bhutanese, Tshering Nima, was sentenced to four years in prison for selling the dzee for Nu 3.7M to a non-Bhutanese in Nepal-India border.

Tshering Nima will have to pay Nu 1.7M to the government.

The verdict stated that the Nu 69,550, which was confiscated from Tshering Nima, will also be given to the government.

Other defendants, Sangay Wangchuk and Tshewang Gyeltshen received two years in prison for aiding and abetting the crime.

Sangay Wangchuk can pay Nu 75,500 in lieu of the remaining one year, eight months and 12 days prison term. He also has to pay Nu 100,000 to the government.

Tshewang Gyeltshen, who absconded the country, should serve the remaining term in the prison when police manage to arrest him.

He absconded with his wife after the former Bumthang drangpon granted bail to him with his wife as his surety. He will also have to pay Nu 100,000 to the government.

Meanwhile, it was learnt that Lham Rinchen only picked the dzee from the Jowo’s neck amongst pearls and jewels when he went to collect the empty golden butter lamp in front of the Jowo Jampa statue.

Nima Wangdi | Bumthang