Even after appealing the case to the High Court, the OAG had maintained that there were no grounds to appeal 

Update: Although it has maintained that there are no grounds of appeal, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG), has five days to submit its grounds of appeal to the High Court after it appealed the on going Lhakhang Karpo case.

OAG representatives submitted before the appeal court during the show cause hearing that there was no reason to appeal against the lower court’s verdict, which acquitted former foreign minister Rinzin Dorje and project manager Wangchuk Tshering in connection with the alleged corrupt and fraudulent practices in the construction of Lhakhang Karpo.

However, the High Court’s Bench I on July 28 issued an order asking the OAG to continue prosecuting the case and submit its grounds of appeal within 10 days.

Attorney General Shera Lhundup said that OAG would submit the grounds of appeal on the usage of the dzongkhag DCM truck but not on the issue of awarding timber sawing works for the Lhakhang Karpo conservation project.

That means that there will be no prosecution on Lhakhang Karpo case per se because the use of the DCM truck is not related to the Lhakhang Karpo’s reconstruction project.

Whether this would make the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) take over the roles of prosecution from the OAG or allow OAG to prosecute the issue of DCM truck is yet to be seen.

ACC counsel moved the appellate court for taking over the roles of prosecution from the OAG during the show cause hearing on July 27.  However, the court overruled the submission based on the interpretation of Article 29 of the Constitution concerning the functions and constitutional roles of the OAG and that of the ACC as per Article 27 of the Constitution.

On June 23, the lower court based on a document acquitted former foreign minister Rinzin Dorje, who was charged for omission amounting to abuse of functions and embezzlement of public property when he was the Haa dzongdag.

After fighting the case for five months until the end of court proceedings, OAG today claims that there are no grounds to appeal.

However, they had challenged the district court on the legitimacy of the document that had cleared all charges against the former foreign minister Rinzin Dorje. The legitimacy of the document was the ground of appeal for the OAG earlier.

During the court proceedings, OAG’s prosecutors questioned the Haa court for accepting the undated and overwritten document, as the document hadn’t specified whether the committee had endorsed the work to be awarded at the original quoted rate.

OAG prosecutors also submitted before the court that the Lhakhang Karpo issue cropped up after the committee had not followed the tendering process and procurement manual. The OAG had challenged the Haa court that the contract work for sawing timber was awarded without contractual agreement signed with LD Sawmill. They also questioned the court whether it was a legally binding to issue back dated work orders to LD Sawmill.

The state prosecutors submitted that the complacency of committee members had led to the misuse of fund through “ghost labourers” in the muster rolls, bribery of public servants, waiving of woola (labour contribution), supplying of inferior quality of sand, misuse of cement and unduly favouring a sawmiller through fraudulent award of contract work.

The OAG has also appealed against the verdict of project manager Wangchuk Tshering, who was acquitted after the court could not establish that he had a ‘criminal intent’ to embezzle funds. He was charged for embezzlement, commission and omission amounting to abuse of functions.

The court directed the former foreign minister to restitute Nu 4,166 to the government for being unable to produce receipt for fuelling the DCM truck.

ACC investigation found that the movement orders of the DCM truck were signed by the former foreign minister Rinzin Dorje himself and his subordinates on his instruction. ACC found that he should refund Nu 80,000 for the transportation of his private timber for 10 trips.

Meanwhile, the preliminary hearing for the project engineer and sand supplier will be held today in the High Court.

By Rinzin Wangchuk