Crime: The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) is reviewing the Anti-Corruption Commission’s report on repatriation of Indian Currency (IC) amounting to INR 106.304 million (M) by using 320 Bhutanese Automated Teller Machine (ATM) cards and trading in the black market.

The review is being done eight months after the commission forwarded the report for prosecution in December last year. An OAG official said that they would register the case before the Phuentsholing dungkhag court soon.

The commission has implicated Sanjit Kumar Gupta, a businessman from the border town of Jaigaon, India, on 273 offenses of active commercial bribery. He was accused of using 273 ATM cards belonging to different Bhutanese individuals from 2012 to 2015 by offering a commission of Nu 2,000 each as hiring charge to enable him to withdraw IC and sell it in the black market.

The ACC began its investigation on the misuse of ATMs after the police in Phuentsholing on August 20, 2015, arrested Sanjit Kumar Gupta along with 28 ATM cards and forwarded the case to the commission as it was related to diversion of IC.

The commission during the investigation had seized from him 35 ATM cards of Bank of Bhutan Ltd (BoB) and 116 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 ATM cards and their respective PIN numbers for him to withdraw INR in India.

In his statement to the commission, Sanjit Kumar Gupta stated that to open an account, he paid Nu 1,500 and an additional commission of Nu 2,000 to either the account holder or middlemen.

He first bought ATM cards from Karma Tenzin who supplied him with his own two cards from DPNB and BoB. Karma Tenzin then sought an easy opportunity to make money and went around Phuentsholing asking people to make ATM cards for Nu 500. He acquired more than 50 ATM cards for which Sanjit Kumar Gupta paid Karma Tenzin Nu 2,000 per card. Karm Tenzin paid the account holders Nu 500 each and kept the rest with him. Other accounts holders also helped Sanjit Kumar in securing ATM cards.

Sanjit Kumar Gupta, closed down his cloth shop in Jaigaon after the INR crunch in the border towns and started doing the 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 carry out deposits.

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 would deposit one large sum into one of the accounts and sent cheques to Wangmo by public bus. She then withdrew it from the bank and deposited the money in different accounts.

The commission on compilation of the list from the ATM cards, 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 him two cards for an account with DPNB and BoB each, taking the number of ATM cards to 320.

The analysis of bank statements of the 320 accounts had shown 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 percent to eight percent for every hundred.

The investigation report also stated that from his dealings of IC in the black market, Sanjit Kumar Gupta made an average of six to seven percent profit amounting to Nu 0.640M for which the ACC asked the OAG to make him refund to the government.

The commission’s findings also revealed that since March 15, 2012, Bhutanese currency had devalued tremendously due to the INR crunch faced in the border towns. This led to the establishment of a black market in which to deal with the exchange of IC.

Fake imports, deflection of goods meant for Bhutan, forgery of customs declaration forms, and sham companies, were some methods used by them to deflect INR into the black market. However, one of the methods the commission found contributing the most to the black market was the use of Bhutanese ATMs to repatriate INR.

Rinzin Wangchuk