RICBL says transaction was secured with mortgage

Rinzin Wangchuk

The issue that is raising questions in the ongoing case the Office of the Attorney General filed against Pemagatshel drangpon Yeshey Dorji and his former wife Khandu Wangmo is the loan amount, Nu 8 million (M) and the manner it was released.

The OAG charged the drangpon and his wife (now former) for deceptively availing a Nu 8M loan from Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan Ltd, (RICBL).  This is one of the charges against them in the ongoing criminal conspiracy case.

The defendant Drangpon Yeshey Dorji, in collusion with Khandu Wangmo, deceptively availed the loan from RICBL on the pretext of starting multiple businesses.

Drangpon Yeshey Dorji used four trade licenses registered in the name of Khandu Wangmo.  They availed the loan not to start businesses, but to restitute Nu 6.5M misappropriated from the Royal Body Guards (RBG) fund by the former commandant Brigadier Thinley Tobgay. 

Khandu Wangmo was compelled to refund the misappropriated amount and paid Nu 7M to Thinley Tobgay on October 17, 2017.   The former commandant restituted Nu 6.5M to the RGB fund and kept Nu 0.5M for his personal benefits.

Kuensel learnt that Yeshey Dorji approached the RICBL management in 2017 to avail the Nu 8M loan.  Since he didn’t have enough assets to mortgage other than his father’s 1.6-acre land in Gelephu, officials of RICBL suggested Yeshey Dorji submit business licenses.

He then applied for four trade licenses in Khandu Wangmo’s name.  He also allegedly solicited support from the land commission secretary to avail loan from RICBL.  It was learnt that the secretary informed the RICBL management to facilitate the loan to Yeshey Dorji if it was possible. 

Yeshey Dorji submitted the four trade licenses and mortgaged his father’s land with RICBL to avail the Nu 8M loan.  The amount was fragmented into four smaller parts of Nu 2M each and reportedly released in two days.  The RICBL released Nu 4M on March 8 and another Nu 4M on March 9, 2017.

Khandu Wangmo earlier reported to court that the loan was released without following any due procedures and no committee meetings was convened to approve the loan.  As per the existing loan procedures, financial institutions are supposed to check if business licenses are operational on the ground or verify mortgaged property before sanctioning loans.  If the businesses are operational, the stocks will have to be insured after verifying physically.

Meanwhile, in 2019 when the loan was defaulted, the RICBL management took them to court.  By then the couple had already separated.  The civil bench passed a judgment making Khandu Wangmo liable to repay the loan since she used the money.

However, the child and family bench, to which Khandu Wangmo appealed, ruled that Yeshey Dorji pay the loan.  Yeshey Dorji also requested before the court to allow him to withdraw his father’s land mortgaged with RICBL.  RICBL denied the mortgage withdrawal.  Both parties appealed to the High Court last year.

Officials from RICBL and regional trade office in Thimphu deny any lapses on their part.

The chief executive officer (CEO) RICBL, Karma, said that although the case is at the High Court, RICBL is secured with the mortgaged property. The previous management had sanctioned the loan based on four legitimate trade licenses issued by the trade department and with mortgaged land in Gelephu. “Our loan is secured with Khandu Wangmo’s father-in-law’s mortgaged land,” CEO Karma said, adding that Yeshey Dorji’s father also signed as guarantor while mortgaging his land with RICBL.

The loan was sanctioned before Karma joined as the CEO.

Officials from Thimphu trade regional office said that there was no relation between the trade licenses they issued and the commercial loan. “We issue trade licenses to let people operate business and not for loan purposes,” a trade official said.

Except for micro trade, an individual can obtain as many trade licenses for retail or wholesale, which has turnover of Nu 5M to more than Nu 10M.

The trade licenses of Khandu Wangmo that were used to avail the loan from RICBL were revoked a year after obtaining them.