DNT raises concerns on the unusual attention the case has received from OAG 

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) on May 14 charged six including the former Dzongkha Development Commission secretary and the former executive director of Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan (RICBL) for their involvement in a false vehicle insurance claim worth Nu 226,546.

Dasho Sherub Gyeltshen in his intimation letter to RICBL stated that his Toyota Prado met with an accident at Lamperi on the Thimphu-Wangdue highway on July 19, 2016 around 10.50pm.

The letter also stated that the vehicle was removed from the accident spot and kept at Kuenga Workshop for repairs, so there was no police report. Dasho Sherub Gyeltshen also wrote that he was unaware that a police report was needed to make insurance claims.

The RICBL officials as instructed by the executive director forged receipts and documents and violated the rules, the OAG’s submission to the court stated.

Anti-Corruption Commission’s (ACC) investigation found that Dasho Sherub Gyeltshen’s car engine malfunctioned when it was on the way to Mongar. It was then repaired at the State Trading Corporation of Bhutan (STCB) workshop at Olakha, Thimphu.

“The job order of STCBL workshop shows that repair was not major which indicates that the vehicle did not have an accident,” the OAG’s submission to court stated.

The actual repair cost at the STCB workshop was Nu 58,861, which was then allegedly inflated by RICBL inspection officer Ugyen Namdrol to Nu 125,746 on a blank cash receipt from a different automobile workshop.

Ugyen Namdrol took the blank cash receipt from Dagap workshop.

“OAG alleged that the officials approved the claim despite knowing that the claim was unlawful,” OAG submitted to the court.

The OAG alleged that as instructed by former executive director Sonam Dorji, Dasho Sherub Gyeltshen paid Nu 17,709 to upgrade the insurance scheme of his vehicle to comprehensive from third party.

The OAG submitted that the vehicle bearing number BP-1-B0077, which was registered as a third party insurance scheme until July 5, 2016, was upgraded to comprehensive insurance scheme on June 4 valid for a year.

The OAG alleged that RICBL skipped the detailed inspection report of the vehicle, which was necessary to upgrade the scheme as per the General Insurance Underwriting Manual 2013, in an obvious violation.

OAG alleged that the vehicle had two insurance covers between July 6, 2016 and June 3, 2017 in violation of the rules of the company.

On August 29, 2016 following the claims committee’s directives, the general manager and the deputy general manager of the insurance department with the inspection officer visited the accident site and submitted a report.

“Despite the absence of a police report which is a requirement as per the Insurance Claim Manual 2011, the claims were granted,” the OAG prosecutor, submitted to the court.

The claims included Nu 106,346 for glass, 110,000 for labour cost, and Nu 10,200 as cost of rubber or fibre items used to repair vehicle. The payment for the claims was made through a cheque.

The insurance office approved Nu 310,223 as benefit to Dasho Sherub Gyeltshen. However, inspection officer Ugyen Namdrol rejected Nu 83,677 saying that the costs of some parts are not covered as per the company’s rules.

On September 9, 2016 Dasho Sherub Gyeltshen received the remaining amount through a cheque.

“As they know each other the executive director helped Dasho Sherub Gyeltshen,” the submission stated.

Executive director Sonam Dorji is charged with two offences. He is alleged of changing the insurance cover to comprehensive scheme. Sonam Dorji is alleged of asking his subordinate to change the scheme without inspecting the vehicle and giving Dasho Sherub Gyeltshen a claim of Nu 226,546. Sonam Dorji is also alleged of instructing the general manager to help and provide the insurance claims.

According to section 58 of the ACC Act 2011, both the charges amount to abuse of functions and are graded a misdemeanor.

A claims committee member, Pasang Wangdue is also charged on two counts of offence. He is alleged of solicitation for asking inspection officer Ugyen Namdrol to get blank cash receipts from an antomobile workshop to adjust the claims.

He is also charged of aiding and abetting for being a claims committee member and having endorsed the committee resolution, which was allegedly false despite knowing that the claims have violated the rules of the company.

Ugyen Namdrol is charged of forgery and deceptive practice. He is charged for fetching a blank receipt to adjust claims of Nu 125,746. He was also a member of the claims committee and signed the resolution deceiving the committee to pay the claimant.

Another RICBL official, Sangay Dorji is also charged of aiding and abetting as he allegedly signed the committee resolution despite knowing that the claim violated the company’s rules.

Dasho Sherub Gyeltshen is charged of fraud.  He allegedly submitted a false intimation letter to make insurance claims.

Dagap workshop proprietor Yonten Phuntsho is also charged for aiding and abetting as he allegedly gave the cash receipt to Ugyen Namdrol despite knowing that it is not allowed.

Meanwhile, Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) which has elected Dasho Sherub Gyeltshen as the party’s vice president issued a press release yesterday raising concerns on the unusual attention the case has received from OAG and its filing at the court.

“No sooner had the party regaled in this resounding success, it turned gloomy a day later when the Vice President of the party who was elected the previous day was summoned by the court,” the press release signed by DNT secretary general Tenzin Lekphel stated.

It was in relation to a case Dasho Sherab Gyeltshen was subsequently associated with soon after his declaration of interest to join DNT.

“Therefore, the course this case takes, particularly the summon issued the day after his election, comes as no surprise to the party,” it stated. “Perhaps the success of the convention projected a formidable image of DNT that it solicited such political ploy,” it stated.

“We say this because during our last consultation with the Office of the Attorney General officials, the case pertaining to Dasho Sherab Gyeltshen in relation to allegations of insurance claims from RICBL was slated for hearing towards the year end. The entire proceeding was to last for almost a year, we were told, especially in view of several backlog of cases,” it stated.

“How this case is singled out and particularly around this time is too obvious to be considered a coincidence. On our part we have been able to ascertain that the investigation was in its first of several tiers of proceedings it has to undergo before moving the court.”

It stated that Dasho Sherub Gyeltshen is an important figure of the party. His credentials ripple beyond the support he draws in his constituency.

“As for the case against Dasho, we have faith in the judiciary and least doubt its credibility and wisdom. We would acknowledge the outcome of the case should it take the course it merits. However, at this stage, gathering from the unexpected developments and pointed interest the case is being given, we fear external factors coming into play.”

“The developments as it unfold is not in the interest of Bhutanese polity and democracy we would like to craft for ourselves as a small nation. The country does not have as many political parties, or candidates willing to participate. DNT on its part strives to offer the people a choice, albeit interest groups engaging political ruse to scupper its participation.”

Tshering Palden