Update: Of the grocery items worth more than Nu 13.548 million that the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) seized from four business enterprises in Phuentsholing, only worth Nu 6.66 million were auctioned yesterday.

Coordinated by the dungkhag administration and thromde with assistance from ACC, Food Corporation of Bhutan  (FCB) and Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA), the auction saw only 14 Bhutanese bidders.

One businesswoman had travelled all the way from Trashigang to participate in the auction. The auction was presided over by the Chukha Dzongdag Pemba Wangchuk.

Of the four enterprises, Burmi enterprise, which has one shop and four godowns in Phuentsholing, had food items worth Nu 7.070 million. Only items worth Nu 3.042 million could be auctioned.

Rigsom enterprise, which has a godown behind the Norgay Cinema Hall, acutioned the maximum – food items worth Nu 3.01 million.

Sugar, food items and dairy products worth more than Nu 0.317 million were auctioned at Nu 2.54 million.

IS enterprise, which was dealing sugar and fish sauces, auctioned all items worth Nu 0.291 million.

All grocery items were auctioned based on the floor price, which is 25 percent below the maximum retail price (MRP). The floor price was set by the 11-member auction committee from the dungkhag administration, revenue and customs, police, FCB, BAFRA, and ACC.

Food items and goods of two more shops – Dorji Wangmo Tshongkhang and DP Tshongkhang –will be auctioned today.

An ACC commissioner said that the proceeds from the auction will be deposited in Escrow account until all legal proceedings are completed.

“This is a temporary measure and the account has been created with the ACC from the order of the Royal Court of Justice,” said the commissioner.

The commission officials said that money would be returned to the shop owners if the court acquitted them. “Otherwise, ACC will deposit the money in the government revenue account after all the legal proceedings are completed,” added the commissioner.

The commission officials explained the bidders why ACC resorted to auction the seized goods. Officials said that the owners of businesses were given opportunity to prove why their goods should not be frozen or seized. However, they failed to provide justification or convinced the commission. The shops were run by non-Bhutanese with Bhutanese trade licences, which can be considered commercial bribing although there is no provision on fronting in Anti-Corruption Act 2011.

ACC ordered six shops to close in April this year and two more in July after the commission found possibility of commercial bribery, fronting, tax evasion and deflection of goods.

An ACC commissioner said that the goods were auctioned in the interest of all parties involved.

Rinzin Wangchuk, Phuentsholing