Thinley Namgay

Phajo Nidup, embroiled in  17 criminal cases in connection to alleged fraudulent loans,  was  sentenced to 21 years, one month and 27 days in prison by the Special Bench  yesterday.

According to the Special Bench,  out of the total sentence,  15 years, five months, and 28 days  will be considered a felony and the rest will be subject to Thrimthue (pay in lieu of prison terms).

The office of the Attorney General (OAG) charged Phajo Nidup on the grounds of bribery, deceptive practices, forgery, tampering documents, solicitation, and fraudulent cheque writing, among others

Over the last few years,  financial institutions in the country and some land buyers fell victim to Phajo Nidup. He had availed multiple loans of around Nu 680 million  by mortgaging the same land and properties with more than two banks.  Most loans are currently non-performing loans.

Phajo is sentenced to eight years, 11 months, and 29 days for bribery, two years,11 months, and 29 days for deceptive practice, four years, 11 months, and 29 days for forgery, two years and eight months for tampering with documents, and one year six months for solicitation.

Several government, corporate and private individuals are  also sentenced in connection to Phajo Nidup’s case.

Six employees of  the Bank Of Bhutan—Tashi Tenzin, Kezang Tashi, Dorji Wangchuk, Til Bdr Gurung, Karma Yezer and Tek Bdr Tiwari—are sentenced between one year and seven years for bribery, official misconduct, and  abuse of functions.

Two police officials, Thukten Choezang and Karma Thinley, are sentenced between two years and five years for  bribery, tampering with documents, and abuse of functions. Thukten Choezang must restitute Nu 360,000 to the state while Karma Thinley has to restitute Nu 231,900.

Erstwhile Road Safety and Transport Authority’s  Nado received a prison term of eight years and five months for bribery, abuse of function, and tampering with public records. Nitra Prasad Karki was acquitted with an instruction to take administrative actions by the agency (initially charged for tampering with public records).

Phuentsholing Thromde’s Deki and Chimi Lhaden are sentenced between three years and five years for bribery, abuse of functions, and tampering with documents.

National Land Commission’s Damchoe Lhendup, Rinchen Dorji, and Tsheten Dorji are sentenced between two years and three years for bribery, abuse of functions, and solicitation.

Phuentsholing Drungkhag’s Sonam Rabgay and Lhamo Dema are sentenced between two years and three years for bribery and commission amounting to abuse of functions. They also have to restitute Nu 20,000 each to the state.

RICBL’s Neten Tshering and Sonam Dargay were sentenced between one year and two years for to abuse of functions.

Nine employees of Druk PNB—Devendra Kumar Gupta (former CEO), Ash Bahadur Rai, Arun Putu Siri, Yonten Dorji, Tilak Chan Gimiri, Sherab Gyeltshen, Thuji Zangpo,   Kezang Phuntsho and Tshering —are sentenced between one year and three years for abuse of functions and bribery.

BNB’s Lobzang Nima and Kinley Dorji are sentenced  between two years and five years for bribery and abuse of functions.

BDBL’s Tandin Dorji and Yeshi K Tshering received a prison term ranging between two and three years for abuse of functions and bribery.

T-Bank’s Ashok Subba was sentenced to one  year and two months for official misconduct.

Four employees of  Zimbi Motors—Sangay Rabten, Sanjiv Nirola, Sagar Gurung, and Sangay Yonten—are sentenced between one year and four years for bribery and solicitation, aiding and abetting, and forgery.

Meanwhile, 13 private individuals are also sentenced between two months and two years for reporting false information, aiding and abetting, deceptive practice among others.

The Special Bench rendered the judgements after  multiple hearings that went into late evening.

The Special Bench was constituted on September 5, 2022, through an Executive Order issued by the Chief Justice of Bhutan to centralise the adjudication of all cases concerning Phajo Nidup that were either pending in courts nationwide or in the process of being filed.

Since its inception, the Special Bench gathered all registered cases from courts nationwide. The Bench systematically collected pending enforcement documents associated with Phajo Nidup from courts across the country to facilitate a comprehensive understanding of property reconciliation and the extent of litigation.

Consequently, the Bench began registering and adjudicating cases not only filed against Phajo Nidup but also those involving debts owed to him by other individuals.

As a result, a total of 104 cases were registered over the course of more than a year.

However, the Special Bench pointed out that the rendering of the judgments of civil cases were temporarily suspended following observations that criminal elements appeared to be involved in nearly all civil matters.

The Bench decided to halt proceedings until chargesheets were filed by the OAG. “The most recent chargesheet by the OAG was submitted on November 14, 2023. This precautionary measure is intended to mitigate the risk of future civil judgments being influenced by criminal elements.”

“Hearing of civil cases including loan cases involving Phajo Nidup and others will resume soon following the completion of the judgements in the criminal cases. The civil judgments will focus on recoveries of the amount,” the Bench  said.