The High Court’s bench I conducted cross-examination of the litigants involved in the Desuung embezzlement case, including the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) officials yesterday.
During the evidence hearing, five shopkeepers from Wangduephodrang were asked to submit statements with regards to the embezzlement case involving Major Ugyen Nidup and a non-commissioned officer, Sangay Dakpa.
Some of the shopkeepers have changed their statements given to the ACC in the trial court.
Before the hearing began, the justices asked the shopkeepers if their statements to the ACC were given without duress to which they agreed that it was given voluntarily.
However, as the cross-examination began, the RBA lawyers referred to the shopkeepers’ statements to ACC whereas the defendants referred to their statements in the trial court.
The justices then asked the shopkeepers to state the truth in their statements.
The justices patiently let the parties submit each of the evidence and gave every party to submit their justifications and raised questions including the validity of the evidence or statements submitted.
The defendants in the DeSuung embezzlement cases with the High Court including this case have claimed that the amount given out as soelra to dancers, military band, cooks, and participants which have been adjusted with grocery and other edible items.
The ACC officials also said that the Military Training Centre commandant told them that such practice of giving cash prizes existed. So those administrative officers who produced note sheets approving the soelra were not charged.
“But the defendants here could not produce evidence of giving the soelra, so the amount has been charged as embezzled,” a prosecutor said.
The court asked the ACC team to confirm with the alleged recipients of cash prizes (soelra) if they have received the money and how much.
Major Ugyen Nidup also has to submit a list people to whom the soelras were given. “This was needed to conclude if the amount was actually given and how much,” the court stated.
Major Ugyen Nidup is charged with embezzling more than Nu 1.338 million, of which Nu 989,162 was in the 22nd batch of the DeSuung training programme.
Both parties submitted evidence in defense of their claims. The court reminded them that it would not admit any new evidence besides those submitted to the trial court.
Major Ugyen Nidup submitted to the court that a comparative study between the expenses of various DeSuung training programmes would show that his team has conducted the programme with much lower budget than those who were not charged to court. He claimed that there were 184 people eating at the mess every day, while the ACC investigation considered only the 123 trainee Desuups.
ACC commissioner Jamtsho led the delegation of four officials from the commission.
Jamtsho said the commission received a complaint after which it conducted desk assessments of financial and data analyses for about five months. “The findings of the analyses revealed disturbing trends such as a single DeSuung trainee consuming two to three kilograms of rice and meat items in a day,” he said. The commission then launched a full-fledged investigation with field visits to shops and offices in Wangdue.
ACC’s investigation director, who interrogated Major Ugyen Nidup, said that the investigation started with shopkeepers, then the non-commissioned officers who assisted in organizing the programmes and finally interrogated the administrative officers.
“The court can know how the investigations were conducted from the video recordings of the interrogations,” he said.
ACC’s legal officer explained the procedure of conducting interrogations, which starts with informing the clients of their jabmi rights and at the end asking if the clients have anything more to add.
Major Ugyen Nidup claimed that he was called abruptly to Thimphu from Phibsoo in Sarpang. “I submitted in my statement to ACC that I could not recall most of the things but I had agreed that I had adjusted,” he told the court.
He said that because expenses for restricted items such as alcohol and other items, served during the programme including guests, were adjusted, it led to such inflated amounts in the bills.
NCO Sangay Drakpa said that he had not taken Nu 50,000 as bribe from Karna Bahadur Kharka as charged.
Commissioner Jamtsho told the court that the defendants’ claim that adjustment does not amount to embezzlement does not follow financial principles.
“I’ve worked for more than 20 years in Royal Audit Authority but from my knowledge, such adjustments are manipulation, which is illegal,” he said.
As the hearing prolonged for hours, the justices adjourned the hearing for a short break and resumed with more shopkeepers attending the hearing. They were late for the hearing but had waited outside the court.