Staff reporter 

The Supreme Court  (SC) recently upheld the decision of the Thimphu dzongkhag court that sentenced Kota, owner of Druk Stars FC to four years in prison for passive commercial bribery and ordered him to restitute Nu 882,764.

He was found guilty of match-fixing in the Bhutan Super League and Bhutan Premier League in 2020.

The match-fixing case first surfaced during the match between the Druk Stars FC and Paro United FC at Changlimithang Stadium on September 24 that year.  Kota had been pressuring his  Druk Stars FC players to concede a goal.

The Bhutan Football Federation (BFF), after a preliminary investigation, took disciplinary action against  Kota and his players. BFF fined Kota Nu 250,000.

Following that, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) launched a detailed investigation on December 2, after an information enrichment exercise found a prima facie case of corruption.

Kota,  along with three friends, established the football club, Lungta Club, in 1998 which was renamed the Druk Stars FC in 2000.

Investigations revealed that  Kota had not only solicited and forced the players of his club but had also made conditional offers of pecuniary benefits to the coaches and players of other clubs for the purpose of match-fixing.

ACC investigation found that during Druk Stars FC’s matches against Gomo FC, Paro FC and Paro United FC on March 5, August 1, and September 24, 2020, Kota had deliberately selected young and inexperienced players as the first 11 players of his team.

Kota had instructed players to lose the matches and offered them Nu 1,000 each. During the match, Kota had called, signalled, pressurised and reminded the players time and again to let the opponents score.

The investigation revealed fraudulent financial transactions with  Kota having received a total amount of Nu 882,764 through a series of deposits from Indian nationals during the Bhutan Premier League, 2020.

ACC forwarded the case for prosecution to the Office of the Attorney (OAG) on 23 June 2021. The OAG filed formal charges of passive commercial bribery under Section 62 of Anti-Corruption Act of Bhutan (ACAB) against Kota before the Thimphu Dzongkhag Court on  October 7 2021.

On  May 20 this year, the Thimphu Court sentenced Kota to four years of imprisonment for passive commercial bribery and ordered him to restitute Nu 882,764.

Kota appealed to the High Court on  July 27.  However, the High Court sentenced  Kota to three years in prison for passive commercial bribery and reduced the restitution amount to Nu 632,764 stating that Nu 250,000 had already been refunded to the BFF.

Submitting that the deducted amount pertained to the recall of funds that had been provided by BFF to football clubs and was not included in the total restitution amount (the proceeds of crime) that had been sought, the OAG appealed to the SC.