US visa scam victims question investigator and prosecutor

Crime: While the 39-year-old woman convicted for conning 38 people of more than Nu 10.8 million have seven days to appeal to the High Court, some victims are questioning why her husband was not charged.

Thimphu district court’s bench three sentenced the woman, Sonammo, from Kazhi in Wangdue to five years in prison for conning people with promises to take them to the United States (US). She was found guilty of conning people of Nu 300,000 each from 38 the people as fee to process the visa.

The victims allege that Sonammo’s husband, who is a trulku, was a part of the scam and he should also be held accountable.

A Samtse resident, Dema, said she never met Sonammo but dealt with the trulku. “I discussed the matter with the trulku and transferred my money to his account,” she said. “I am not asking the court to convict him but he should be held accountable and he should return our money.”

She said that she was introduced to the trulku by another lam in Samtse and never expected to get cheated. “I am just hoping that I will get my money back.”

Dema said the lam in Samtse asked her and two other women if they are interested to go to the US to work and make money that would be used to construct a monastery. “I was interested as I thought the money I make by working there would be used for good purpose,” she said.

Dema took a loan and is now facing difficulty repaying it. “My friends and I are now thinking of filing a case separately against the husband of the woman if he is not held accountable,” she said.

Victims allege that they have mentioned about the husband’s involvement in their statement to the police but they have been told that there were no charges framed against him.

Another Samtse resident, Wangchuk, said he paid Nu 300,000 to the trulku to process visa for his daughter and influenced three other women in the locality to try for the visa. “Now the trulku, who is my relative, says his wife conned him,” he said. “I don’t believe that the husband did not know what his wife was up to.”

Wangchuk said there are many people who paid the money to the trulku.

The husband of the woman, however, said that while the victims have the right to feel that he conned them as they believed and trusted him, he also trusted his wife. “Everyone doubts I colluded with my wife but my conscience is clear.”

He also said his relatives and close friends were victims and if he intended to collude he would never involve people close to himself. “It’s true that people transferred their money in my account. Some even paid cash to me but I did not take a single penny from there. I transferred all the money to my wife.”

He also said police conducted thorough investigation and if he was involved, police would have charged him.

While the prosecutor from OAG was not available for comments, police officials said they could not charge the trulku because investigation revealed that he did not intend to con people. He is involved but he did not have intention according to the police.

Tashi Dema

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