… sentences her for 15 years and six months in prison
Dechen Dolkar

The Supreme Court sentenced Damcho Choden, also known as Anim Damcho, to nine years imprisonment for misappropriation of Buddha Dordenma Project funds and possessing of unexplained wealth.
The court also sentenced her to six years and six months for tax evasion.
The judgement was passed on October 4.
The Supreme Court upheld the judgement of the High Court on misappropriation of project funds and possession of unexplained wealth.
The High Court, on May 16, 2023, reversed the jugdment of the trial court and sentenced Anim Damcho to nine years imprisonment.
According to the Supreme Court judgment, she was sentenced to eight years for misappropriation of property and one year for possession of unexplained wealth.
The court ordered the restitution of Nu 53.521 Million (M) from Damcho Choden, Nu 3M from Kelzang Deki, Anim Damcho’s younger sister, and Nu 0.15M from Yonten Jamtsho, Anim Damcho’s nephew.
The seized properties including land (9,502 sq.ft.) and three vehicles, Toyota Landcruiser Prado, Toyota Fortuner and Maruti Alto are to be auctioned. The restitution amount, along with the auction proceeds, is directed to be paid to the Buddha Dordenma Project.
The judgment also states that Anim Damcho was found to have used project funds to purchase vehicles without the consent of other donors.

Embezzlement of funds
The case pertained to the financial irregularities surrounding the construction of a 169ft bronze statue of Buddha Shakyamuni and associated structures at Kuensel Phodrang in Thimphu. The project involved contributions from foreign donors and individuals. Lam Tshering Wangdi, Chairman of Menjong Chothuen Tshogpa, had a central role and Damcho Choden was designated as Project Manager.
The investigation revealed poor record-keeping, lack of transparency in accounting for foreign donations, and significant discrepancy between funds received and project expenditures, during the period from 2004 to 2008.
From 2009 to June 2018, the investigation revealed a shift towards even more concerning practices, such as the diversion of funds into Lam Tshering Wangdi’s personal account, lack of accountability for a substantial amount of funds in project-related spending, and misappropriation of donations which ended up in Anim Damcho’s possession.
The investigation also revealed use of project funds for the acquisition and registration of several high-value properties in the names of Lam Tshering Wangdi and Anim Damcho and their immediate family members. These properties encompassed land, buildings, vehicles, and business endeavours.
Judgment on tax evasion
The Supreme Court sentenced Anim Damcho to six years and six months for a third-degree felony in tax evasion export of cordyceps. The Supreme Court has reversed the High Court’s judgement lowering the prison term. The High Court convicted Anim Damcho for nine years while Yonten Jamtsho was sentenced to three years for a fourth-degree felony.
The Court has also ordered Anim Damcho to restitute Nu 63.182M within six months.
Lhaimetog Export and Import (LMEI), a licensed exporter of cordyceps, registered in the name of Anim Damcho was managed by Younten Jamtsho.
Between 2009 and 2017, the firm officially reported a taxable income of Nu 88.819M to the tax authority, paying Nu 1.133M as business income tax. However, the investigation revealed that the firm had deliberately concealed at least Nu 70.987M in export income and consequently evaded Nu 21.296M in taxes during that period.
Younten Jamtsho and his staff engaged in fraudulent practices, including falsifying invoices and redirecting funds to personal accounts of either Lam Tshering Wangdi, Anim Damcho or himself, in an intentional effort to evade tax obligations.