Haa Lhankhangkarpo: In the ongoing Lhakhang Karpo case, the two witnesses, who were summoned to testify if the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) had taken their signatures and defendant’s statements under “duress and coercion”, said that they were not aware of such conditions.

Kinzang Dorji from Thimphu, and Shashi Maya in Haa, testified in the Haa court yesterday, after the project engineer of Lhakhang Karpo conservation project, Tashi Gyeltshen, alleged that the ACC investigators dictated him to write, and that his statements were taken under duress.

Kinzang Dorji said that he went to the ACC office more than three times as a witness for Tashi Gyeltshen. “I was told by the investigators to sign the documents or statements, which were already prepared and waiting for the witness’s signature,” he said. “They just told me to sign as a witness.”

He said ACC officials told him that, if Tashi Gyeltshen later denied giving such statements, or claimed that it wasn’t his handwriting, he would have to prove it before the court.

In one of the incidents, Kinzang Dorji said, ACC officials took Tashi Gyeltshen’s statement at the entrance of the ACC office, where he again signed as a witness. “I just signed as witness, and have no idea on how the statements were taken or whether he was harassed or not,” he said.

Shashi Maya also agreed that she was just told to sign as the project engineer’s witness without giving any reason.  Both witnesses agreed that they were not given the reasons for being a witness.

In their statements submitted to the court last month, three defendants, including Tashi Gyeltshen, submitted to the court that their statements to ACC were not given voluntarily.

Tashi Gyeltshen, who is charged with official misconduct, passive bribery, forgery and embezzlement, alleged that ACC investigators harassed him through prolonged interrogation and threatened him to confess, during which he suffered emotional and mental distress.

The court also summoned the lam of Lhakhang Karpo dratshang on April 9 to testify whether the dratshang performed purification ceremonies at the construction site, and offered soelkha to the valley’s revered guardian deity, Ap Chhundu, at the expense of the project.  The lam agreed that the dratshang performed lhabsangs and rituals, but said he was involved only for three months.

The lam testified after Tashi Gyeltshen submitted to court that Nu 74,985 was used for ritual and prayers ceremonies, which were conducted for more than a year.  The OAG charged him with embezzlement of Nu 74,985 through ghost names on muster rolls.

By Rinzin Wangchuk