Rinzin Wangchuk | Paro
After a brief hiatus Paro’s gold smuggling case has returned to limelight again.
Over the past few weeks, prosecutors from the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) were often seen in the dzongkhag court.
The attorneys are prosecuting 59 people, including six women and three Indian men, in connection with the illegal possession and smuggling of 201.66kg gold in different cases. This includes eight people who were charged before the Paro court on February 10 for smuggling 32kg gold. However, the court officials said that the preliminary hearings are yet to start.
As of yesterday, about five cases had reached for evidence hearing and 15 for preliminary hearings. The evidence hearings for the 10 men, who were charged by OAG on June 13 last year for smuggling in 52kg of gold biscuits amounting to Nu 151.664 million from northern border, are under way. The other three cases involve two men for smuggling in 20kg gold and three individuals for importing more than 3kg gold from Bangkok.
In different cases which are on preliminary hearings, OAG charged six men for smuggling in 31kg gold, 10 for smuggling 28kg, two for 20kg gold, eight for 10kg gold, and five for 24kg gold smuggling.
OAG is also prosecuting four women for solicitation.
The court also conducted preliminary hearings for three Indian businessmen, who were charged for attempting to smuggle out 1,488.66 grams of gold worth Nu 5.065 million last year.
Twenty-one defendants, who were involved in smuggling 109.04kg gold, appealed to the High Court against the rulings of the Lower Court. The court had convicted the appellants and had given them two years to six years term in prison for smuggling, conspiracy and solicitation.
Of the 21 people, the court sentenced a 48-year-old farmer from Tsento to six years in prison for illegally smuggling 43kg gold biscuits from the northern border.
The police arrested the farmer at Datshekamo, about 200 metres below from Drukgyal Dzong, based on a tip-off on October 30, 2018. Police found 31kg gold concealed under driver’s seat. Another 12kg gold was found under the passenger’s back seat after he was taken to the Paro police station. Police handed over the seized 43kg gold to the Royal Monetary Authority.
Four other defendants, who were sentenced to two and a half years to five-year non-compoundable prison term for smuggling, solicitation, aiding and abetting in connection with the import of 20kg gold, also appealed to the High Court.
The dzongkhag court is expected to be flooded with more gold cases. OAG is yet to register four more cases involving 22 people in more than 44kg gold. Six people involved in 22kg gold, eight in 14kg gold and seven in 5kg gold smuggling cases.
An OAG official said that the office would charge a man before the Paro court this week for smuggling in 3.5kg gold. Customs officials at the Paro airport seized the gold from the accused when he flew in from Bangkok on December 15 last year. The items were concealed inside the speakers of a 55-inch television set.