OAG charges 51 for active and passive commercial bribery in ATM card racket

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) yesterday submitted before the Phuentsholing dungkhag court to order the prime accused to restitute Nu 10.366 million (M) to the government based on the 9.75 percent interest rate charged when the government borrowed INR from India.

OAG has charged the prime accused, Sanjit Kumar Gupta, a businessman from the border town of Jaigaon, India, on 59 counts of offences of active commercial bribery on repatriation of Indian Currency (IC) amounting to INR 106.304M by using 320 Bhutanese ATMs and trading in the black market.

Sanjit Kumar Gupta was accused of using 320 ATM cards belonging to 273 Bhutanese individuals from 2012 to 2015 by offering a commission of Nu 2,000 to each as hiring charges to enable him to withdraw IC.

The OAG’s prosecutor, who registered the case with the dungkhag court on March 20, also charged 50 Bhutanese individuals for passive commercial bribery as they worked as middlemen to collect ATM cards from 273 Bhutanese individuals. Each defendant received different amounts ranging from Nu 300 to Nu 2,500 per ATM card. Some worked for the prime accused as ATM card collectors and cash depositors into those 320 bank accounts. They were paid monthly salaries of Nu 10,000 to Nu 15,000.

For instance, the accused hired the service of Wangmo to shift her account number to Wangdue dzongkhag to make the deposits for him. She was paid Nu 15,000 per month as salary. He used to deposit one huge sum into one of the accounts and send a cheque to Wangmo through a bus. She then withdrew it from the bank and deposited in different accounts.

The prosecutor asked the court yesterday during the opening statement to order the 50 defendants to restitute the commissions they received from Sanjit Kumar Gupta as it was the proceeds of a crime.

However, the OAG prosecutor could not produce the 26 defendants before the court since they had changed their mobile phone numbers and also due to lack of proper addresses. All defendants were charged based on Anti-Corruption Commission’s (ACC) findings.

ACC began its investigation on abuse of ATMs after the police in Phuentsholing on August 20, 2015, arrested Sanjit Kumar Gupta who had with him 28 ATM cards and forwarded the case to the commission on the grounds that it was a case of diversion of IC.

The commission during the investigation had seized from him 35 ATMs of Bank of Bhutan Ltd (BOBL) and 116 ATMs of Druk Punjab National Bank (DPNB). The investigators also seized two diaries where Sanjit Kumar Gupta had listed all the accounts he was using for his INR business. The diaries contained the list of all the ATMs and their respective PIN numbers for him to withdraw INR from India.

He first bought his ATM from Karma Tenzin who gave him his two ATM cards of DPNB and BOBL. Karma Tenzin saw it as an easy opportunity to make money and went around Phuentsholing asking people to make ATMs for Nu 500. He made more than 50 ATM cards for which Sanjit Kumar Gupta paid Karma Tenzin Nu 2,000 per ATM. Karma Tenzin paid the account holders Nu 500 each and kept the rest with him. Other account holders also helped Sanjit Kumar in securing ATMs and deposited money in the accounts.

Sanjit Kumar Gupta closed down his clothes shop in Jaigaon after the INR crunch in the border towns and started doing INR business in 2012. He hired the services of security guards or Bhutanese to make deposits for him since non-Bhutanese are not allowed to make such deposits.

The commission on compilation of the list of the ATM cards in  Sanjit Kumar Gupta’s diary and his account holders’ list, found that 273 people had sold their ATM cards to him. Most of them had sold two accounts of DPNB and BOBL to him, taking the number of ATMs to 320 accounts.

The analysis of bank statements of the 320 accounts showed that Sanjit Kumar had withdrawn a sum of INR 106.304M from 2012 to 2015. He had been withdrawing a minimum of INR 30,000 a month. He then sold the INR to business firms in Jaigaon at a rate ranging from two to eight percent for every one hundred.

Rinzin Wangchuk

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