Rinzin Wangchuk  

The government is looking into the possibility of acquiring the resort built on the controversial land in Trongsa, the Prime Minister said.

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) wrote to the prime minister requesting to explore the possibilities after the Supreme Court affirmed the High Court’s judgment on Trongsa land case. The judgment was passed on April 29 this year.

Having prosecuted the case, ACC was responsible to enforce the judgment.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that the Cabinet discussed the matter and concurred with the idea to acquire the structure in the interest of all the parties involved, the State, the bank that provided the loan and the owner who built the resort. He said that he hasn’t met with the proprietor of the resort but he is thinking if that can be a good deal to consider it rather than sending the property to waste.

“It’d be a win-win situation for all the parties,” Lyonchhen said. “Bank wins because they will get some money. Government wins because we don’t have to dismantle it and we can use it. The owners win because they don’t have to spend extra to dismantle and not gain anything. That is why it is under consideration.”

Both appellate courts upheld the lower court’s ruling passed on November 14, 2019 and directed the Viewpoint Resort owner, Karma Tshetrim Dolma (KTD), to restitute the 4.73 acres of land on which the resort was constructed to the government.

The court also directed ACC to approach the government in consultation with the National Land Commission Secretariat (NLCS) to discuss if the government would be interested to acquire the resort at the rate to be finalised by the relevant agencies. The ruling also stated that if the government is not interested in acquiring it, the owner should demolish it.

The resort was claimed to be built at a cost of about Nu 300M and was getting damaged because of neglect arising from the complications surrounding the case and the “freeze notice’ issued by the ACC.

Abandoned after the legal battle, the resort was closed since April 2015 after ACC issued a freeze notice of immoveable properties on the land for any transaction.  The property owner submitted before the court that since section 104 and 107 of the ACC Act are explicit and prohibit the owner from entering into any transaction or operations of the resort, the responsibility of care lies with the ACC in accordance with their Act.

ACC, on the other hand, submitted that they issued a freeze notice of the land but did not ask the owners to close the resort. The commission stated that the freeze notice was issued to prevent the disposal or transfer of the land under dispute pending completion of the legal proceedings. It also stated that the commission did not make any specific reference to stopping business operation as well as carrying out construction works.

The proprietor on March 1, 2016 also requested the commission to issue clearance for carrying out maintenance and construction activities on the plot frozen consequent to the ACC’s investigation in March 2015.

After two days, the commission wrote to KTD stating: “Given the fact that the case will be forwarded to court for prosecution and that the legal outcome cannot be predicted at this stage, the commission would not advise you to carry out any major construction or expansion works except for repairs and maintenance on the existing infrastructure. However, if you still insist on carrying out such works for your own reasons, please be advised that it will be at your own risk should there be any complications or financial ramifications after the completion of the legal proceedings,” ACC’s letter to KTD on March 3, 2016 stated.

BOB files civil suit

While waiting for the ACC to enforce the judgment, the Bank of Bhutan (BOB) also appealed to the Thimphu Dzongkhag Court to recover the loan outstanding of Nu 258.558M from KTD and her guarantor Lhab Dorji and transfer all the immoveable and moveable properties owned by both loanee and guarantor to the bank.

The bank sanctioned a total of Nu 132.687M (Nu 85.891M as a housing loan and Nu 46,796M as a service loan to KTD on December 31, 2012 to construct the resort by mortgaging 4.95 acres of land where the ViewPoint resort stands today. For Nu 132.687M, the total outstanding stands at Nu 255.115M.

Later, the bank sanctioned more than Nu 2.438M in addition to the previous loan and the outstanding amount as of June 2022 was Nu 3.442M.

This is the second time that the management approached the court to recover the outstanding loan amount from KTD and her husband. The first appeal was submitted in September 2019 but the court asked the bank to withdraw it saying that the legal proceedings on the case were being heard in Trongsa court.

The BOB management appealed to the court last month after the bank was left with no mortgage for the loan sanctioned since the appellate court asked the owner to dismantle the resort and restitute the mortgaged land to the government.