Phurpa Lhamo | Wangdue

Almost a month after police in Punakha received a complaint against a woman for allegedly selling a vehicle she had hired, police are receiving similar cases on a daily basis.

As of yesterday, the police have registered 26 cases and retrieved 25 vehicles. Five suspects: four women and a man had been detained.

Police sources said the case first came to light on September 22 when a man from Shengana filed a written complaint, stating that a woman had sold his Bolero, which was taken on hire for Nu 250,000.

Registered as a ‘breach of trust’ case, the woman was questioned and later released on bail.

Police received three more similar complaints on October 8. The cases were, however, registered on October 11 after a further eight people lodged similar complaints.

A Bolero owner, Kado, whose vehicle was also sold, said he rented out his Bolero for Nu 35,000 a month to a woman, who claimed she was supplying vegetables to desuups. “I received payment during the initial months but then the woman refused to receive my calls or pay the monthly hiring charges.”

Police sources said all five suspects used the same modus operandi to hire the vehicles. “For light vehicles, the five suspects claimed the vehicle would be used for desuup duty,” an official said.

According to the officials, Punakha police located and retrieved 18 vehicles between October 11 and October 12 through the Check Post Management System (CPMS).

According to the traffic in-charge in Punakha, Sherab Yoezer, they have traced another three vehicles through the CPMS, and asked the drivers to report to the police station. “The vehicles were retrieved from Paro, Haa, Thimphu, and Dagana.”

He said most of the vehicle owners are based in Punakha and are from different gewogs. Four owners of light vehicles are monks in the Punakha dratshang.

Who are the suspects?

The suspects, four women and a man, are based in Thimphu. Of the five, two are a couple and the other three women are married.

They are aged between 31 and 41 years old and are from Tashiyangtse, Zhemgang, Paro, Samtse and Punakha. All suspects claimed to be engaged in business.

Police sources said a 31-year-old female suspect had sold eight vehicles, a 39-year-old female suspect had sold nine vehicles, a 40-year-old female suspect had sold six vehicles, and the couple had sold two and had kept one with themselves.

According to sources, the 40-year-old woman had a prior conviction where she was sentenced to two years and six months in prison for forgery and deceptive practices in Thimphu.

It was also learnt that the male suspect has been named in an ongoing case of larceny by deception in Thimphu. “The wife was also convicted of a similar case in Paro,” a police source said.

Punakha’s officer-in-command, Lt. Colonel Chador Namgay, said all suspects had denied working together and denied committing the crime. “But the suspects had been each other’s witnesses when forging car rental agreements and sale deeds.”

He said that the bank accounts of all suspects have been frozen and will be investigated soon.

Meanwhile, it was learnt some vehicle ownerships have been changed two times.

A buyer said Road Safety and Transport Authority officials should have asked for the identity card copy of the old owner and the sale deed records, which were both provided by one of the suspects.

In one of the sale deeds forged by one of the suspects, details on the vehicle loans and vehicle registration details had been issued.