Raven Crown resort under ACC scanner

The commission yesterday issued a freeze notice on the same property

Land: More than two months after the Bank of Bhutan limited’s auction notice of a high-end resort in Trongsa, together with the land, the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) yesterday issued a freeze notice on the same property, exposing a decade-old issue that remained buried under the foundation of the resort.

The ACC notified that the dry land measuring 4.74 acres in Nubi gewog and 2.28 acres in Drakten gewog, belonging to Karma Tshetim Dolma, is frozen against any transaction with immediate effect.  The commission freezes immovable properties when it is satisfied on information obtained that any immovable property is the subject matter of an offence under ACC Act, or evidence of the commission of such offence.

ACC officials refused to comment, or share reasons, for issuing such a notice, saying that it was under investigation.

However, going by the Bank of Bhutan’s auction notice, the 4.74 acres dry land and the property in Nubi gewog is confirmed to be the Raven Crown Resort, a luxury resort located at Newlee-tse, opposite the Trongsa dzong.

Kuensel learnt that residents in Trongsa then questioned how the land spanning more than four acres was acquired when the resort, also known as Viewpoint Resort, was being built eight years ago.  Residents suspected the then dzongda, Lhab Dorji, who served as the Trongsa dzongda from 2002 to 2006, of having a hand in the case.  The issue however became quiet until recently, when ACC officials were seen visiting Tashidingkha village.

Villagers in Tashidingkha told Kuensel that the controversy cropped up recently, after the dzongkhag acquired private land from 33 households for the construction of the Institute of Language and Cultural Studies (ILCS) at Taktse.  Among 33 households, one family from Tashidingkha lost more than two acres of dry land to ILCS.  Some were compensated, while others were given land replacement from other areas.

Among the 33 landowners, a 38-year-old woman was paid Nu 45,000 as compensation.  She said she was not sure how many decimals or acres of her land were acquired by the government for the institute then.

“I came to know that there was some problems and suspected malpractices, when I requested the cadastral survey team to re-survey my remaining land,” she said. “The team told me that my name was not there in the land record (sa thram), and that it was registered in the name of dzongda Lhab Dorji’s wife, Karma Tshetim Dolma.”

She then filed a case against Karma Tshetim Dolma at the Trongsa district court, saying that she hadn’t transacted any land with her or the dzongda, nor was she given land substitute.  After more than two years of legal proceedings, she said that her case was dismissed by the court, saying that she had sold the land to Karma Tshetim Dolma.

“Had the court investigated properly the issue wouldn’t have arose,” she said.

Sources said the 2.28 acres dry land in Drakten gewog, on which the ACC issued freeze notice, was actually acquired for ILCS in 2003-04.  It was alleged that former dzongda abused his authority, manipulated the documents and transferred it to his wife’s name.

It was also alleged that another household, also in Tashidingkha, lost more than two acres of land to ILCS, but was later reflected as sold to Karma Tshetim Dolma.  The household was also reportedly compensated Nu 45,000 by the dzongkhag.

Locals also alleged that the former dzongda had then written to the Nubi gup to look for land substitute for his wife, who lost her land to ILCS.  The dzongkhag then reportedly provided land replacement from Newlee-tse that was used as a tsamdro (grazing land) for the people of Bjee.

The former Drakten gup, Tenzin, agreed that more than 30 households lost their land to ILCS, and a few households lost substantial portion of their ancestral land.  He also said that he heard about dzongda’s wife buying land from two households in Tashidingkha.  However, he said he was not aware whether the transaction had really taken place or not. “The late tshogpa Rinchen was involved, and we don’t know how the land replacement was given from Nubi gewog.”

Sources alleged that land transactions documents were forged.

Meanwhile, Karma Tshetim Dolma claimed that land transactions were done legally. “It was done through legal proceedings and there was no issue at all except defaulting my loan repayments,” she said over the telephone yesterday.

By Rinzin Wangchuk

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