Tashi Dema 

The Supreme Court (SC) upheld the lower court’s judgment and sentenced a former cashier of the Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan (RICBL), Rinchen Wangdi, to 20 years in prison.

In the judgment rendered on April 5, Rinchen Wangdi from Gomdar in Samdrupjongkhar was found guilty of embezzlement of public funds, tampering documents, forgery and participation in an offence.

The SC also ordered him to restitute Nu 63.2 million (M).

Rinchen Wangdi is in Chamgang, serving his prison term, and his lawyer, Kunzang Wangdi, appealed to the SC to reduce his sentencing, deduct the amount RICB got from the sale of his shares from his restitution amount or transfer the shares to his wife and children, sell the land and properties the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) seized and deduct the money from his restitution amount or transfer the land and property to his wife and children.

The lawyer also requested the court to summon 17 people who borrowed money from Rinchen Wangdi, make them repay the money and deduct it from his restitution amount. “A woman from Lamgong village in Paro took Nu 15M from Rinchen Wangdi to do dzee (cat’s eye) business.”

The SC ruled that since the defendant was found guilty of 234 counts of embezzlement, 58 counts of forgery, 33 counts of participation in an offence and 222 counts of tampering documents, his sentencing is proportionate to the crime he committed. “He also absconded the country after the committing the crime and incurred loss in millions to RICB.”

It also stated that there is no change in the sentencing from the Paro dzongkhag court and the High Court’s judgment as there is no error in the interpretation of the law.

However, the court increased the restitution amount by Nu 500,000 as Rinchen Wangdi had submitted to the High Court that he took the money from an employee of Bhutan National Bank (BNB), Pema Wangda.

It was learnt that the case is under trial as a separate case as Pema Wangda is also charged and convicted of participation in an offence and omission of official function.

The issue surfaced in June 2015 after RICBL deputed a special audit team to the Paro branch office following observations on Rinchen Wangdi’s luxurious lifestyle.

It was found that employees from BNBL colluded to “fudge” bank statements while withdrawing the RICBL’s account through forged signatures.

Rinchen Wangdi bought four vehicles, including a Santa Fe and two plots of land measuring 30 and 38 decimals in Paro and Gelephu from the money he siphoned from RICBL within a period of more than four years.

After the issue surfaced, he absconded in June 2015 from Paro and RICB had to announce a reward of Nu 1M. It was later learnt that he was arrested from Nepal.