Judiciary: In the latest development in the corruption case in Phuentsholing, the Phuentsholing dungkhag court yesterday conducted miscellaneous hearing of five business entities involving 10 individuals the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) charged to court.

This is the first lot in the ongoing investigations by the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) into the entrenched corrupt practices in the country’s commercial hub.

Based on the ACC’s findings, the OAG has charged four Bhutanese and six non-Bhutanese for commercial bribery, tax evasion, deflection of goods, fraudulent practices and official misconducts.

Ten individuals, who are allegedly implicated, include the owner of the Jatan Prasad Lal Chand Prasad (JPLP) departmental store, Lal Chand and his accomplice Raj Chowdary, Dorji Wangmo and Jai Prakash of Dorji Wangmo Tshongkhang, Sonam Choden and Naresh Bansel of Rigsom Enterprise, Ugyen Tshering and Raj Kumar Agrawal of Norzang Trading, and Yangki Tshering and Bal Krishna Panday of Rabten Pharmaceutical and Medical Supplies, all based in Phuentsholing.

Except JPLP store, rest of the establishments were run by non-Bhutanese, while the Bhutanese owned the licenses.

Lal Chand, who has been detained by the ACC since June 17, is alleged to have evaded tax through false invoicing and declaration amounting to Nu 184M. ACC officials said that the commission was ready to release Lal Chand on bail but nobody was willing to come forward as his guarantor.

Lal Chand’s accomplice, Raj Chowdary, is charged for aiding and abetting in tax evasion through tampering of documents and invoices.

Raj Kumar Agrawal, who runs Norzang Trading, had reportedly absconded on the day when ACC raided his shop.

The commission also found that Rigsom Enterprise had not maintained books of account properly and designed a special undertaking form that the business will not run on fronting. However, Sonam Choden fronted her business to Naresh Bansal.

Dorji Wangmo Tshongkhang was run by Jai Prakash, who was operating in the same place with a different license earlier. After the former license under KC Tshongkhang was revoked, Jai Prakash used Dorji Wangmo, who was a sale girl then, to obtain Dorji Wangmo Tshongkhang license.

The commission closed shops and godowns in April and suspended trade licenses from operations after finding a prima facie case of corruption.

These cases were forwarded to the OAG on August 8 for prosecution. The commission also forwarded three cases of Tenzin Enterprise, Burmi Enterprise and DP Tshongkhang, all run by non-Bhutanese last month.

However, a case of revenue and customs inspector, who is reportedly charged for bribery and owing disproportionate asset and forwarded to the OAG in May, is yet to be registered at the dungkhag court.

The court proceedings will be presided over by the drangpon of Chukha court, according to the ACC and dungkhag court officials.

The OAG has reportedly assigned four lawyers to prosecute the cases in Phuentsholing.

Rinzin Wangchuk