Winners seek police and court intervention for prizes

Rinzin Wangchuk

Exposing the dark underbelly of the entertainment shows, Thimphu City Police are investigating allegations of deception and fraudulent practices against organiser of a reality singing competition show,  Do-Ri-Me-Fa,  after one of the contestants lodged a complaint alleging that they were misled and cheated.

The case was registered at the Thimphu dzongkhag court yesterday.

The organiser, Kuensel learnt,  was summoned to the police station following  a complaint filed by a 28-year-old woman, the 1st runners-up in the show conducted from December 2022 to March 2023.

The young woman from Trashiyangtse accuses the show organiser, who is a music composer and producer, of deception, fraud, and manipulation. In her complaint letter submitted to the police on June 29, she stated that the owner and his team had not only cheated her, but also all the top six contestants.

Contestants claim they were promised guaranteed visas to Australia and scholarships to study there if they emerged as winners of the reality show. However, none of the top six contestants were granted visas or given their cash prizes. They also alleged that the organiser made them deposit substantial sums of money, Nu 1M each, for their supposed visa and scholarship requirements.

After successfully concluding the reality show, Do-Ri-Me-Fa Season 1 on March 23, the organiser announced that the winner would be granted a 100 percent tuition fee scholarship along with airfare and visa processing fees to study in Australia. The 1st runner-up was assured the same tuition and visa processing fees except for airfare. The second runner-up was also supposed to receive a 100 percent tuition fee, while the 4thposition would get 60 percent tuition fee and 55 percent for the 5th position. The winner of the 6th position was supposed to be awarded a cash prize of Nu 500,000.

The organiser announced the prize money for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd positions during the final result of the reality show, which were Nu 1M, Nu 0.8M, and Nu 0.6M respectively.

“Forget about the Australia visa, we haven’t received our prize money till now,” one winner told Kuensel.

The contestants alleged that the organiser made them deposit Nu 1M each for their supposed visa and scholarship requirements. This was apart from the public voting for each contestant. The winners were supposed to be sent to Australia through Nam Ying Education Consultancy and Placement Firm.

According to the complainant, upon the owner’s guarantee of visa and scholarship, she even closed her garment shop and restaurant and sold her cafeteria in Paro to earn and study in Australia. She claimed to have sold her belongings and surrendered her house  to live with her relatives in Thimphu.

“On January 25, 2023, my brother-in-law deposited Nu 2M to organiser’s personal account for the confirmation of the Australian visa, including my husband,” she said. She added that the organiser issued a cheque equivalent to the deposited amount to be encashed in case the visa was rejected.

She said that after her visa was rejected, she went to cash the cheque but to her dismay, the cheque issued by the organiser had expired as he had given her a back-dated cheque dated December 2, 2022, whereas she had deposited the money on January 25 this year.

“When I informed the organiser about the expiry of the cheque and requested the issuance of a new cheque, he refused, stating that the Nu 2M deposited in his personal account was meant for votes,” the complainant stated in her submission to the police. “Now I realise that he did so as not to return my money if our visas got rejected, as he was well aware that by the time the visa arrived, the cheque would be outdated.”

In total, all the top six contestants deposited Nu 7M into the organiser’s personal account. “This amount was deposited in advance not as votes but with a guaranteed visa and scholarship for Australia,” she said, adding that this was done under the organiser’s instruction to avoid the entertainment tax.

Through such deception and eyewash reality shows, she said the organiser duped all six contestants. “This needs to be investigated and brought to justice for future untoward happenings,” she said.

She said that even the third prize winner resigned from a secure job, including his wife, because of the owner’s promise of an Australian visa.

The winners also allege that the organiser knowingly provided false information about the minimum educational requirements for the scholarship, misleading contestants who did not possess the specified qualifications. Most of them dropped out after Class X.

Another woman, 30, from Trashigang, who was supposed to go with her husband, said that the organiser promised them they didn’t require the IELTS test and qualification.

They also alleged that the organiser and his team intentionally manipulated the voting process, not only for each episode but also during the final stages of the competition. The contestants alleged that the votes were tampered with to maximize profits and generate additional revenue. They claim that online voting systems, such as T-Cell and B-mobile, could verify this manipulation.

The contestants further claim that the show’s owner instructed them to understate their financial capacity during the visa application process. They alleged that one of the contestants was even asked to manipulate his bank balance to meet the owner’s requirements. This deliberate manipulation, according to the complaint letter, was intended to reject their visa applications and avoid fulfilling the promised scholarships.

Organiser’s claim

Refuting allegations and claims, the organiser said he and his partners are still working to send the winners to Australia after their entertainment visa programme was rejected by the Australian government. “We still have time to process their scholarships and visas,” he said.

Regarding the Nu 1M deposited by each contestant, the organiser said the money was meant for cash votes and not for visa processing. “This amount was for their votes,” he said, adding that the organiser and the six top contestants who reached the final round executed an agreement to vote for at least Nu 1M and they have to produce a Class 12 pass certificate while availing their prizes and visas.

He also said that the prize money was withheld on the condition that it would only be paid if their visas or scholarships were rejected. “We also told them to undergo the ILTS test, which they refused to do,” he claimed.

Meanwhile, the organiser refunded Nu 1M to the wife of the 6th position yesterday after she reported it to the media and the police. She had deposited the amount to the organiser’s personal account on May 25 to process visas for her and her de facto husband.