High Court convicts Home Minister, others in fake insurance claim case

Tshering Palden 

The High Court yesterday upheld the lower court’s judgment that convicted Home Minister Sherub Gyeltshen to two months in prison for claiming false vehicle insurance worth Nu 226,546.

The home minister’s attorney and other defendants appealed to the court arguing that the lower court erred in the application of legal provisions.

The High Court judgment stated that after a thorough review, the lower court’s decision was upheld.

According to the lower court’s judgment, the statements shared by Lyonpo on claiming insurance for his vehicle were inconsistent.

Lyonpo Sherub Gyeltshen in his intimation letter to Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan Ltd (RICBL) stated that his Toyota Prado met with an accident at Lamperi on the Thimphu-Wangdue highway on July 21, 2016.

In another statement, Lyonpo claimed that his car engine malfunctioned when it was on the way to Mongar. There was no proof to indicate the accident actually happened, the judgment stated.

The former executive director (ED) of RICBL, Sonam Dorji offered his help to claim insurance for the repair. Lyonpo Sherub Gyeltshen was convicted with fraud under section 311 of the Penal Code of Bhutan.

The offence is graded a petty misdemeanour and can pay thrimthue in lieu of prison terms.

He was also asked to refund the full amount to the insurance company through the Office of Attorney General (OAG).

The former executive director, Sonam Dorji was convicted with two offences of misusing his position. He changed the insurance cover of Lyonpo’s vehicle insurance from third-party to the comprehensive scheme. He had also asked his subordinates to change the scheme without inspecting the vehicle and giving Lyonpo Sherub Gyeltshen a claim of Nu 226,546.

For the two counts of misuse of position, Sonam Dorji was convicted for one year, which is graded a misdemeanour.

RICBL’s general manager, Sangay Wangdi was also sentenced to six months in prison for solicitation and asking inspection officer, Ugyen Namdrol to get blank cash receipts from an automobile workshop to adjust the claims.

Ugyen Namdrol was convicted with forgery and deceptive practice. He was convicted for fetching a blank receipt to adjust claims of Nu 125,746. He was also a member of the claims committee and signed the resolution deceiving the committee to pay the claimant. He was sentenced to one year in prison.

Another RICBL official, Sangay Dorji was sentenced for a month in prison for aiding and abetting as he signed the committee resolution despite knowing that the claim violated the company’s rules.

The proprietor of Dagap workshop, Yonten Phuntsho was also convicted for aiding and abetting as he gave the cash receipt to Ugyen Namdrol despite knowing that it is not allowed. He was sentenced to six months imprisonment.

The Office of the Attorney General had appealed to the High Court that the penalty on the home minister be raised to the maximum sentence for the offence. However, the High Court dismissed it.

The defendants can appeal to the larger bench of the High Court in the next 10 working days.

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