Flawed system to blame says court

OAG prosecutors reviewing judgments  

Corruption: Prosecutors of the Office of Attorney General (OAG) are reviewing the Chukha dzongkhag court’s recent judgments on seven immigration officials involved in bribery and illegal entry and exit of foreign workers at Rinchending check post, Phuentsholing.

The dzongkhag court verdict ruled out OAG’s evidence for tampering of official documents as insufficient to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the crimes were committed by the accused.

The court’s investigation found that the immigration checkpoint office had a flawed computer system with poor internet connectivity.

While the ‘username’ and ‘password’ of the two computers were given to the two permanent officials stationed there about seven officials worked on the computers.

The immigration department regional director’s submission to the court stated that because of lack of space more computers could not fit in and the staff had to share them. So the computers could not be logged out.

While the staff rotated on weekends, the information and communications officials did not update the change in location of officials so the new officials continued operating on the account already logged on until Monday. This meant other officials were entering data in to immigration transaction system.

The online system also had another flaw. While collecting fines and entering them, the system accepted dots or even previous receipt numbers. So the immigration officials could keep the fines and enter any digit.

The district court’s verdict came out with major differences in sentences reducing them from more than three years non-compoundable prison terms to compoundable one-year prison terms each.

As there were no criminal records against the defendants, and having detained in prison for varying number of days, they were sentenced to a few days more than 11 months.

They can pay thrimthue in lieu of prison terms within 10 working days after the verdict.

The parties have until January 11 to appeal to the High Court.

ACC’s investigation of a case involving several taxi drivers, police personnel, and immigration inspectors at Tanalum check post who were allegedly involved in bribery in the illegal exit of absconding foreign workers exposed similar practice in Rinchending checkpoint as well.

A total of 83 people were charged, of which 30 were immigration officials in Phuentsholing.  Most immigration inspectors, who were alleged to be corrupt, were reportedly junior officers with less than five years of service.

The investigation had uncovered two distinct schemes of bribery, one at the entry and another at the time of exit.

Corruption mainly occurred in passing through foreign workers from across the border with fake documents. This involved the recruitment agents as the staff had bribed immigration officials to aid fake voter cards.

Tshering Palden

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