Even as the Paro dzongkhag court sentenced a 48-year-old farmer from Tsento to six years in prison for illegally smuggling 43kgs of gold biscuits, Thimphu district court has in the past few weeks issued more than 30 remand detention orders to police.
Proven beyond reasonable doubt for smuggling 43kgs of gold worth Nu 126.622 million into the country from the northern border of Phari in Tibet on October 27 last year, the Paro court handed over Gyeb Tshering to police after passing the judgment. Gyeb Tshering was on bail since December 3.
Gyeb Tshering violated Bhutan Penal Code’s section 279. As per the code’s section 18A, the crime is graded a third-degree felony with a prison term ranging from five to nine years.
Police arrested Gyeb Tshering at Datshekamo, about 200 metres below Drukgyal Dzong, based on a tip-off on October 30 last year. Police found 31kgs of gold concealed under the driver’s seat of Prado he was driving. Another 12kgs of gold was found under the passenger’s back seat after he was taken to Paro police station. Police on November 5 handed over the seized gold to the Royal Monetary Authority.
OAG submitted to court that Gyeb Tshering and Zhomi, a Tibetan from Phari, knew each other two years ago when he was exporting cordyceps and mushroom from Bhutan.
They were communicating through WeChat.
On October 25, Zhomi contacted Gyeb Tshering and proposed a business deal. He then asked the convict to come to Phari, collect the gold that was to be handed over to a man called, Suman, from India. Zhomi also told him to call Suman in Phuentsholing once he arrived there. Zhomi agreed to pay Gyeb Tshering Nu 15,000 for each kilogram of gold as carrying charge.
Gyeb Tshering drove his Prado on the night of October 26 to Lyemdo Zam and parked there. He walked up to Shana through illegal trade route and met Zhomi at 5am next morning at the meeting point in Jatsho Lum, which is located within Bhutan near the northern border.
He returned home with the gold on October 27. The community police in Drukgyal Dzong arrested him when he was attempting to take the gold to the destination.
Gyeb Tshering argued before the court that although he attempted to ferry gold from the north to the southern border since he was paid Nu 15,000 each for a kilogramme, he had not gone beyond Bhutan’s border to get gold and neither imported from another country to sell in Bhutan.
He also challenged that Zhomi smuggled the gold into Bhutan and handed it over to him at Jatsho Lum from where he took the regular route of Drukgyal Dzong and not an illegal trade route as police and OAG submitted before the court.
Gyeb Tshering also said that there was no Act or rule stating that one cannot transport or ferry gold or seek approval or permit and declare while transporting gold.
Meanwhile, police in Thimphu and Paro reportedly detained more than 30 people, mostly from Tsento gewog after busting a major gold smuggling racket. Police refused to comment. However, the court officials confirmed that Thimphu dzongkhag court issued more than 30 remand orders to keep them under custody during the course of investigation.