The Royal Bhutan Army’s (RBA) prosecutor yesterday submitted to the High Court’s Bench I that the military court judgment was based on the Anti-Corruption Commission’s (ACC) statement, which was submitted as evidence and the shopkeepers were never interrogated under duress as appealed by defendant Major Ugyen Nidup and Captain Ugyen Dorji.

The two officers were implicated in the DeSuung training embezzlement case.

The prosecutor said that an evidence of video recording of how the shopkeepers were interrogated was also submitted to the military court, which clearly showed that they were never interrogated under duress and that the judgment was based on those statements.

The prosecutor said the judgment had to be based on the ACC’s statement because the shopkeepers confessed that the defendants had taken blank bills with their signature on but without taking any item and assured nothing would happen to the shopkeepers.

“The defendants had appealed that the military court’s judgment was confusing and surprising but there was no reason to be surprised because the judgment was based on evidence,” the prosecutor said. “Judicial investigation revealed that they took statements from the non-commissioner officer (NCOs) and we have evidence.”

Prosecutor Captain Kinga Tenzin said they could produce evidence if court orders.

Responding to defendants’ appeal that they were denied of legal representative by the military court, the prosecutor rebutted that all defendants involved in the case were given a chance to have a legal representative.

He clarified that they were advised to find a representative from RBA so that the representative could have a better understanding of the case. “At that time, the defendant submitted that they didn’t want a representative.”

Major Ugyen Nidup, who served as the administrative officer during the seventh batch submitted that they had to deny a representative because it was restricted to the military.

The other officer implicated, Captain Ugyen Dorji, said if they were given a chance to look for a representative from outside the RBA, they could have arranged for one. “The court should look into this issue and investigate again.”

He served as the administrative officer for the 16th batch.

The prosecutor also refuted the claims of conflict of interest, explaining that although the judge and the RBA prosecutor were from the same organisation, they work independently.

Captain Ugyen Dorji said there was a possibility of a conflict of interest because he was earlier accused of misusing Nu 40,000 along with the alleged embezzled amount but later the prosecutor claimed it was an error. “They said it was a fund for a refresher course. That instilled doubt in me.”

In terms of bill adjustment made to purchase restricted items like hornet, foreign liquor, and smoked fish, the prosecutor submitted that those items were not allowed to be billed but instead of providing a separate bill for these items, they had adjusted with other bills.

“It was found that in the fifth, sixth, and 10th batches, the administrative officers had provided a separate handwritten bill or note sheet of purchasing such items, which was sanctioned and considered by the ACC,” prosecutor said. “But this was not there in the case of Major Ugyen Nidup and Captain Ugyen Dorji, which is considered as embezzlement.”

The prosecutor also submitted that they had inquired with the Royal Audit Authority if there were any kind of circulars issued for restricted items to which they were informed that although there is a circular on foreign liquor, there was no circular on hornet or smoked fish.

“Most defendants reasoned that they had to adjust the bill because of lack of standard operating procedures,” the prosecutor said. “If it was so, how did the second batch administrative officer provide a separate local bill with signature and revenue stamp for hornet and fish, which was approved including the cash soelras.”

Captain Ugyen Dorji submitted that during his batch he purchased 10kg of hornet but it was purchased as stock for off-season.

“We’ve to serve hornet to important officials,” he said. “I used about 3kgs for my batch, which was adjusted with the grocery, meat, vegetables and fruit bills as per the commandant’s order and had submitted the bill to the mess,” he said.

Pelpon Sangay Dakpa and Peljab Tashi Phuntsho had appealed that whatever they did was as per order from their officers.

The prosecutor submitted that this is not true and there was evidence that they have misused the fund.

Yangchen C Rinzin