The Supreme Court (SC) yesterday upheld the High Court’s (HC) judgment that imprisoned two men to five years for their involvement in gold smuggling in 2015.

The judgment stated that Chungdu Wangchuk and Rinchen Dorji, who were given value-based sentencing of five years non-compoundable prison term, should now serve their term.

The highest appellate court, however, deferred the HC’s two years and six months imprisonment of another man, Rinzin, involved in the case.

The judgment stated that Rinzin claimed that he was not aware of the consignment’s content when Chungdu Wangchuk asked him to bring a parcel from the northern borders. An agreement drawn between Chungdu Wangchuk, Rinchen Dorji and Kuenley Tshering, who was also involved in the case, mention that Rinzin should not be aware of what the parcel is.

The judgement stated that Rinzin would be given the benefit of doubt for the time being since his involvement was not proven beyond reasonable doubt. “However, if his involvement is proven in future, he will serve HC’s sentencing.”

Rinzin brought the gold biscuits from the northern borders when he returned after taking rations to the shed.

The gold smuggling case was busted in 2015 when police in Tsimasham, based on a tip-off, arrested Chungdu Wangchuk around midnight of November 15. Although police barricaded the road with a security check about 100ms away from Tsimasham town towards Thimphu and stopped his car, he did not comply and crept through the blockade. Police arrested him at the road point that leads to Tsahigatshel from the highway. “He had, by then, threw the seven biscuits of one-kilogram biscuit and his cell phone into the forest below the road.”

Police later arrested his accomplices, Rinchen Dorji, Kuenley Tshering and Rinzin.

Office of the Attorney General (OAG) charged them for smuggling at the Chukha dzongkhag court and for aiding and abetting the crime. Chungdu Wangchuk was charged for obstruction of lawful authority and hindering prosecution.

Chukha dzongkhag court, however, changed the charges to ‘carriers’ and ‘receivers’ of the smuggled gold and sentenced them to two years, six months each.

The HC revoked the Chukha dzongkhag court’s decision and imprisoned Chungdu Wangchuk to nine years and six months; Rinchen Dorji to seven years and six months and Kuenley Tshering to two years, two months and eight days.

The HC stated that Chungdu Wangchuk and Rinchen Dorji were guilty of smuggling gold worth more than Nu 18.6 million. It ruled that the amount of gold smuggled in was beyond the 50-gramme permissible limit. It also ruled that they were guilty of criminal conspiracy for forging the contract with the intention to smuggle gold to India.

Section 27 of the Penal Code states, “A defendant shall be guilty of the offence of criminal conspiracy to commit a crime if the defendant agrees with another person or persons that they or one or more of them will engage in a conduct that constitutes a crime.”

Chungdu Wangchuk and Rinchen Dorji were given two and a half year sentences each for this offence. Kuenley Tshering received a half the sentence.

Chungdu Wangchuk and Rinchen Dorji appealed to the SC on December 5 last year.

Chungdu Wangchuk’s lawyer, Ugyen Dorji, submitted before the SC to alter the HC’s judgment and penalise his client for transporting or aiding and abetting to smuggling.

Rinchen Dorji’s lawyer, Rinchen Khandu, submitted before the SC that his client was only transporting the consignment on the request of people and requested court to reduce his client’s sentence and to give a compoundable sentencing.

The SC ruled that it was proven beyond reasonable doubt that the duo smuggled the prohibited item without any respect to law.

Tashi Dema