Chief supervisor has to refund Nu 71,550 for unaccounted nine labourers

Verdict: Of the six individuals charged with abuse of functions, forgery, bribery and embezzlement in the ongoing Lhakhang Karpo corruption case, the Haa dzongkhag court yesterday sentenced the 51-year old lapon to a year in prison.

Lhakhang Karpo conservation project’s chief labour supervisor, Lhab Dorji, was found guilty of tampering with witnesses to testify in an untruthful manner.  The court, however, gave him an option to pay thrimthue of Nu 45,000 for the prison term.

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG), based on the findings of the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC), indicted Lhab Dorji on two charges: embezzling labour payment and mentoring two witnesses.

In the beginning of 2013, the lapon knowingly mentored Choden, his neighbour from Bangina, to admit before the ACC investigation team that she had represented woola (labour contribution) for three households, Kagey Zam, Lhab Tshering and Thinley Jamtsho.

Lhab Dorji also admitted that he had mentored his wife, Sonam Lhamo, to falsely admit the representation of woola for Penjor.  His wife, in her earlier statement to ACC, had stated that she had contributed woola for Penjor, which later was established as false.

On the embezzlement charge, the court ordered Lhab Dorji to restitute Nu 71,550 as he could not account for nine labourers deputed on behalf of 19 households, who were reflected in the muster rolls and collected wages using thumbprints.

The OAG indicted him for embezzling Nu 126,305 by reflecting names in the muster roll without engaging them in the project between November 12, 2010 and July 21, 2012.  Lhab Dorji, who was responsible for reconciliations of woola and issuing the receipts, collected Nu 3,000 each in cash from 28 households for labour contributions.

During investigation, Lhab Dorji 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 28 households, Lhab Dorji was able to account for 11 people only and could not accounted for 19 households.

However, the number of unaccounted labourers dropped to nine, after the court on March 20 summoned 14 people as witnesses to testify if they were deputed by the lapon on behalf of the 28 households.

They testified that they worked for the Lhakhang Karpo project, and even submitted in writing that four people, including a 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.

In the same case, the court on March 3 sentenced a 31-year old businessman from Paro to three months in prison with an option to pay thrimthue.

Druk Leading Enterprise’s owner, Pema Wangchen, was found guilty of favouring businessman Nima, also based in Paro, in getting a contract for the procurement and supply of construction materials to repair the existing water supply system at the Lhakhang Karpo project.

The OAG charged Pema Wangchen with aiding and abetting the crime, as he helped Nima of Pema Tshongkhang to quote a higher rate.  Nima, who had not participated in the spot quotation, requested Pema Wangchen to help him by quoting a high rate in the spot quotation form.  This was arranged to show that Druk Leading Enterprise also participated in the bidding.

Meanwhile, the evidence hearings for five other defendants, Lyonpo Rinzin Dorje, project engineer Tashi Gyeltshen, project manager Wangchuk Tshering, sand supplier Tshewang Rinzin and Nima have completed, and the accused are left to submit their closing statements.

Rinzin Wangchuk