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OAG takes former labour labour minister, wife, niece and two others to court

Charges not related to BOE programme 

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Aug 22

Rinzin Wangchuk

The former minister of labour and human resource, Ngeema Sangay Tsempo, his wife, niece and a hotel manager are charged before the court for four offences in connection with the Bhutanese youth training programme in India.

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) filed the case at the Thimphu dzongkhag court yesterday and charged the former minister for false declaration of assets, deceptive practice, official misconduct and larceny by deception.

Other three are charged for deceptive practices. The court accepted the case after conducting miscellaneous hearing in presence of both parties- plaintiff and defendants.

Ngeema Sangay Tsempo is charged for making false declaration with a view to conceal his asset, excavator, hiring incomes and loan liabilities in his asset declaration for the year 2016. Despite being the actual owner of Tshomo Hiring (a hiring agency), the former minister deliberately made false declaration. 

He is also accused of concealing the fact that Manav Dhingra, an Indian bid winner, was a secret partner and deceptively obtained trade license from Ministry of Economic Affairs (MoEA) and loans from Bhutan National Bank (BNB). He is charged for two counts of deceptive practice.

The OAG also charged the former minister for official misconduct for soliciting Manav Dhingra to be a secret partner with Tshomo Hiring.  Manav Dhingra is not only a foreign national, but also a youth training and placement contractor of the labour ministry who does business under direct supervision of the MoLHR.

The former labour minister is also facing charges of larceny by deception. Sometime in 2015, during an official visit in New Delhi, the defendant met Manav Dhingra and asked him to arrange for gemstones and rudraksh rosary with a promise to make payment on later date. Manav Dhingra allegedly arranged a gemstone worth INR 85,000 and Rudraksh Rosary costing INR 71,983.

However, the former minister did not pay for those items even after three years indicating he had no intention of paying. OAG charged him for the two counts of larceny by deception and submitted before the court to restitute the two items to its lawful owner.

As per the Anti-Corruption Act (ACA) and Penal Code, the offences of false declaration of assets and official misconduct are liable for misdemeanor while deceptive practice and larceny (theft of personal property) by deception are liable for petty misdemeanor for each count of offence.

The OAG stated that the defendant was an elected high-ranking public official under the Oath of Allegiance/Secrecy to serve TSAWA-SUM with full dedication, loyalty and integrity as per the spirits of the Constitution. “The prosecution pleads the court that the defendant be penalised with maximum penalty liable for each count of the offence charged,” OAG’s statement to the court stated.

 

Charges on three others

Pema Tshomo Sherpa, after having agreed to proxy her uncle Ngeema Sangay Tsempo in operating the illegal Tshomo Hiring business, obtained trade license from MoEA with Dilu Giri, general manager of Druk Hotel, and got loan from BNB to purchase an excavator in her name, for her uncle.  Pema Tshomo Sherpa is charged for two counts of deceptive practices. 

Ngeema Sangay Tsempo’s wife, Namgay Lhamo, despite having knowing full of her husband being the actual owner of the Tshomo Hiring, abetted her husband by helping Pema Tshomo in processing loan from BNB and accounting for proceeds from the hiring services. She is also charged her for deceptive practice.

The OAG also charged Dilu Giri for agreeing to proxy for Manav Dhingra in operating Tshomo Hiring business and obtaining trade license with Pema Tshomo and receiving cash from Manav for the purchase of the excavator for 30 percent of Manav’s profits from the business.

The 30 percent of Manav’s profit Dilu Giri received should be restituted to the State as per the Penal Code.

All the illegal investments made by the parties, including Manav, in the joint business and income proceeds therefrom, if any, shall be restituted to the State.

 

Background

At the time of committing the offences, Ngeema Sangay Tsempo was the minister of MoLHR. While sending Bhutanese youth for training programs to India, the defendant met Manav Dhingra in both Delhi and Thimphu and proposed his business plan of an excavator hiring service. He insisted Manav to invest 50 percent.

Manav had dues to be collected from the same ministry for his contract services and had to comply with the proposal. He was told that the business operation, obtaining trade license and loan will be done in the joint names of Dilu Giri in Thimphu for Manav and Pema Tshomo Sherpa for her uncle.

Manav told Dilu Giri to study the business viability and asked him to act on his behalf on condition that he will get 30 percent of Manav’s share of the profit. As directed by Manav, Dilu Giri met the former minister. The minister had readymade calculation on the profits the excavator would earn from its arranged engagement with the SD Coal Company in Samdrupjongkhar.

Tshomo Hiring was then established in the joint name of Pema Tshomo and Dilu Giri. The former minister also got loan from BNB in the name of his niece while Manav handed over his investment of INR 3 million, in cash, through Dilu Giri for the purchase of an excavator, which was bought in Pema Tshomo’s name and hired out to SD Coal Company.

Payments were received in the name of Tshomo Hiring’s account and withdrawals were made under joint signatures of Pema Tshomo and Dilu Giri.

By the end of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) investigation, the BNB loan was fully paid and the excavator was surrendered to SD Coal Company, in adjustment to the personal loan, but without the knowledge of Dilu, Manav or his niece.

“Although the investigation didn’t freeze the machine, the proceeds can still be tracked for the restitution of the criminal proceeds to the State,” the OAG stated in the charge sheet.

 

What took OAG so long?

OAG received the investigation report from ACC on December 28 last year, but without the statement of the defendant’s niece who was then working under the BOE programme in Japan, they had to hold the review for want of additional information.

She also refused to respond to ACC or OAG till she recently returned home. ACC was able to take her statement only on August 12.

Moreover, Manav kept evading ACC calls after his first statement but the OAG finally got in touch with him in New Delhi and emails were exchanged recently. “He is willing to come and testify in both the cases if he is granted with the immunity from arrest and plea bargain benefit in exchange of the full disclosure of information on those cases,” OAG officials said.

OAG agreed in principle and he exchanged material information through his recent email on August 16.

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