OAG convinces court to seek names of ghost labourers

Initially, witness testimony was accepted without households being identified 

Lhakhang karpo: After accepting the lapon’s earlier statement, the Haa district court has now asked him to name households that provided workers for the Lhakhang Karpo conservation project.

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) submitted on April 9 that the court should not consider or accept testimonies of 14 witnesses, who failed to name the persons they had worked for. “It isn’t possible for the person to forget who worked on his or her behalf,” OAG’s prosecutor said.

On March 20, the court summoned 14 people as witnesses to testify if they were deputed by lapon (labour supervisor) Lhab Dorji on behalf of the 28 households that paid Nu 3,000 each as their labour contributions.

They testified that they worked for the Lhakhang Karpo project, and even submitted in writing that four people, including one deceased, who were not present during the witness hearings, worked with them.  They also claimed that some hired workers worked for 15 days to five months.

Based on their statements, the court accepted their testimony, despite reservations from the OAG representative, who then rebutted on April 9 that lapon Lhab Dorji failed to account for 15 households.

Drangpon Duba Dukpa said that the court will have to see whether the deceased and a couple, who were testified by the witnesses to be accounted for or not.   The judge also said that if it were proven beyond reasonable doubt, then the number of unaccounted labourers might come down.

Lhab Dorji submitted before the court that he had nothing to add to what was already said.  The verdict on this issue is expected to come out soon.

Based on the findings of the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC), the OAG charged Lhab Dorji for embezzling Nu 126,305 after he failed to account for the persons deputed on behalf of the 19 households.

He also failed to account for 513 man-days of woola, amounting to Nu 126,305 collected both from individual households and the muster roll of the project.

Lhab Dorji was responsible for reconciliations of woola (labour contribution) and issuing the woola receipts.  The people requested him to depute a labourer on their behalf, and the hired workers also received national work force wages from the project.

Lhab Dorji pleaded guilty on the second charge, an offence relating to tempering with witnesses to testify in an untruthful manner.  He had mentored a woman to admit before the investigation team that she had represented woola for three households.   He also admitted to having asked his wife to falsely admit to representation of woola for a man.

The court also conducted another cross-examination hearing on April 10 to testify whether 13 households worked for the project or not.  On request of the project manager, Wangchuk Tshering, who was charged with embezzlement of Nu 74,985 and Nu 55,380 using ghost labourers in the muster roll, the court summoned them as witnesses.

All witnesses said they didn’t work for the project or received wages but added that they were now ready to contribute labour for the project.

OAG’s prosecutor said that, if they now work for the project, Wangchuk Tshering would have to pay them as per the national workforce wages.

However, the court established that three people had actually worked and were paid for.  Of the 13 people, Wangchuk Tshering issued labour contribution receipts for seven without them attending woola.

Wangchuk Tshering had instructed or given a series of name lists at the end of the months to project office assistants and Lhab Dorji, who prepared muster roll for labourers.  They were instructed to include those names and embezzled Nu 55,380.

Some project assistants, during interrogation, had admitted reflecting the names of 14 people in the muster roll on the instruction of Wangchuk Tshering, who also waived 456 man-days for 15 households, including his relatives and neighbours.

Wangchuk Tshering is also charged with embezzlement of Nu 74,985 through ghost labourers, which is under judicial investigations.

Both Wangchuk Tshering and OAG will submit their evidences on April 20.

By Rinzin Wangchuk, Haa

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