Tashi Dema

The Supreme Court had acquitted Bhutan National Bank’s (BNB) assistant credit officer, Pema Wangda, who was involved in the Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan’s (RICB) embezzlement case in Paro.

Thimphu dzongkhag court convicted him to a year and six months in prison for participation in an offence and omission of official function as there were two cheques amounting to Nu 700,000 in his name during the investigation of the case.

Of the Nu 700,000, Pema Wangda paid Nu 200,000 to a former BNB staff, Tshering Lhamo, but could not prove his claims that he gave Nu 500,000 to Rinchen Wangdi during the trial in the lower court.

Pema Wangda appealed to the High Court and the court’s bench III upheld the Thimphu dzongkhag court’s judgment.

He then appealed to the larger bench, where the main defendant in the case, Rinchen Wangdi, the cashier of RICB’s Paro branch office and embezzled more than Nu 141 million (M) appeared before the court and changed his statement claiminghe received Nu 500,000 from Pema Wangda.

Rinchen Wangdi stated that he denied receiving the money from Pema Wangda and other defendants in the case because Pema Wangda, who was his close friend, refused to treat him like a friend after his arrest from Nepal and return to the country.

He also claimed he made the wrong submissions because of pressure during the investigation.

The larger bench altered the lower courts’ judgments and acquitted Pema Wangda for participation in the offence, but convicted him for failing to report the crime and ordered him to pay Nu 11,245.

Pema Wangda’s lawyer Sonam Dorji appealed to the Supreme Court, which ruled that although Nu 500,000 was in Pema Wangda’s name, the court was not convinced if he benefitted from that amount. “Therefore, the defendant is acquitted and could be reinstated as per the company’s existing rules.”

The April 21 judgment also stated that Rinchen Wangdi should restitute the Nu 500,000 to RICB.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court also issued a deferral judgment against RICB’s assistant development officer, Heruka, who was convicted of embezzling public funds by the lower courts.

Paro dzongkhag court sentenced Heruka to three years in prison and ordered him to restitute Nu 1M.

The Supreme Court ruled that circumstantial evidence against Heruka did not prove him guilty beyond reasonable doubt.