His plea, however, is that the offence should be deemed a misdemeanour and not a felony

Lhakhang Karpo: Among the four charges against him, including seven counts of official misconduct, Lhakhang Kapro’s project engineer Tashi Gyeltshen has accepted the forgery charge under section 297 (c) of the Penal Code of Bhutan.

In the ongoing legal proceedings at the Haa district court, Tashi Gyeltshen has the highest number of charges against him among the seven involved.

However, during the Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) submission last week, he submitted to court to charge him as per the section 297 (d), which is a misdemeanour for all other forgeries and not (c) as charged.

The OAG has charged Tashi Gyeltshen with forging bid documents to supply the GI wire mesh at the Lhakhang Karpo project.

Last week, the OAG prosecutor submitted before the court that the accused was liable for punishment as per section 297 (c) of the Penal Code, which states that the offence of forgery shall be a felony of the fourth degree, if the writing or document forged is a will, deed, contract, mortgage, release, commercial instrument, or other writing or document evidencing, creating, transferring, altering, terminating, or otherwise affecting a legal relationship.

After seeking approval from the project, Tashi Gyeltshen is alleged to have selected and placed the spot quotation to three firms, Jatsho Enterprise, Thimphu, Pema Tshongkang and Kay-Tee Enterprise, both in Paro, on January 23, 2012.  On scrutinising the documents, the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) found that he had forged the quotation bids for Nima, the proprietor of Pema Tshongkhang and Tashi Phuntsho, the proprietor of Jatsho Enterprise.

Nima and Tashi Phuntsho admitted that they did not participate in the quotation, nor authorised anyone to represent their firms. “This constitutes an offence of forgery for Tashi Gyeltshen,” the prosecutor rebutted.

After forging the bids, the OAG prosecutor said Tashi Gyeltshen presented it to the tender committee for evaluation.  The bid for the proprietor of Key-Tee Enterprise, Dago, turned out to be the lowest and the supply order was placed on February 13, 2012.

He then procured the GI wire mesh from Jaigoan, India at Nu 118 a square metre (m2) and supplied it at Nu 230/m2.  Tashi Gyeltshen prepared the bill in the letterhead of Key-Tee Enterprise and forged Dago’s signature.

He is also alleged to have verified and passed the bill for payment, which he had collected himself.  This, OAG said, constituted an offence of commission, amounting to abuse of function.

On the embezzlement charge of Nu 74,985 through ghost labourers on muster roll, Tashi Gyeltshen denied misusing it.  He said the money was used for performing rituals and burning of incense at the construction site, and prayers and offerings to the local deity, Ap Chungdued.

However, the OAG representative argued that Tashi Gyeltshen had not mentioned this in his statement to ACC.

Among the seven counts of charges for abuse of functions and official misconduct, which were not connected to Lhakhang Karpo case, the project engineer accepted three.  He admitted that he had filled the bill of quantity (BoQ) for Kunzang Rinzin of K. Rinzin Construction, Paro on his request, and taken measurements and prepared bills after the completion of the contract work.

But he denied supervising the work at the construction site.  The construction of a gabion wall at Yangthang in Bjee gewog, Haa was awarded to K. Rinzin Construction at Nu 1.352 million (M) on December 8, 2010.  The bill was submitted on February 9, 2011 and the payment cleared on March 11.

The OAG claimed that Tashi Gyeltshen received a gratification of Nu 150,000 from Kunzang Rinzin.  Tashi Gyeltshen submitted that Kunzang Rinzin gave the amount to his wife as profit since they were doing contract works together. “I just took the money from my wife,” he said.

However, the prosecutor said that, in his statement to ACC, Tashi Gyeltshen had admitted that he supervised the construction site, as requested by Kunzang Rinzin, since he was living in Paro, and received Nu 150,000 on November 25, 2011 for supervising the work.

Tashi Gyeltshen also denied receiving an HP laptop worth Nu 46,000 as gratification from Kunzang Rinzin during the construction of a nunnery at Wangsisina, Thimphu, and for preparing the construction drawing for his private three storied building.  He claimed that Kunzang Rinzin bought a laptop for him to be paid later, after he told him that he did have a computer to design the drawing.

The OAG rebutted that Tashi Gyeltshen, in his statement to ACC, admitted to have receiving the HP laptop from Kunzang Rinzin, but there was no mention of paying later.  Moreover, Kunzang Rinzin had also admitted that Tashi Gyeltshen approached him for the work, and offered an HP laptop and an external drive worth Nu 6,000.

He also denied using his father-in-law, Dorji Yangley’s construction license for the construction of the gabion wall at Katshochu.  Tashi Gyeltshen, however, admitted to quoting the rates and preparing the bills.  He said his wife was using the license.

The project engineer will submit his rebuttal statement on March 17.

By Rinzin Wangchuk