Thinley Namgay  

Out of 30 agents accused of trafficking Bhutanese women in the Middle East, the special investigation team (SIT) had recently forwarded one case to the Office of the Attorney General.

According to the special investigation team, a couple in their late 30s from Trongsa sent 44 women to Iraq in 17 groups.

Officials said that the couple charged each woman Nu 20,000 to Nu 30,000, and received about USD 1,000 to USD 2,000 from their counterparts in the Middle East.

The SIT arrested the female counterpart in January of last year. Her husband was arrested last month, but is currently out on bail.

Officials said the couple have been charged for trafficking in person as per the Penal Code of Bhutan.

The Penal Code (Amendment) of Bhutan 2011 states a defendant shall be guilty of the offence of trafficking in person if the defendant recruits, transports, sells, buys, harbours, or receives a person through the use of threat or force or deception within, into, or outside of Bhutan for any illegal purpose.

The offence of the trafficking of the person shall be a felony of the fourth degree.

The OAG prosecutor said she was reviewing the charges forwarded by the SIT.

Meanwhile, the SIT is investigating cases of other people accused of trafficking women.

According to officials, about 184 women have been trafficked to the Middle East.

Officials explained they have to look at different criteria such as recruitment, transportation, sale or purchases, and harbouring to grade the offence as trafficking.  “We have to get a detailed statement from suspects and victims, as the problems occurred in other countries,” an official said.

Officials said that the Covid-19 pandemic delayed the investigation, as it is difficult to bring the accused and victims together.

The Royal Bhutan Police, Department of Law and Order, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Kuwait Embassy helped each other to rescue the women from the Middle East last year.