Crime: Thimphu police detained a 42-year-old woman from Kazhi gewog in Wangdue for deception and forgery after she allegedly promised more than 30 people employment in the USA.

A khenpo from Shingkhar Lauri in Jomotsangkha reported to police on May 25 that the woman, who claimed to be a visa agent working for two American women, defrauded him of Nu 7.8 million.

The khenpo had given the woman Nu 300,000 each for 26 people from Shingkhar Lauri as visa fees after she assured him a working visa for each of them.

The woman had taken Nu 300,000 each from around 47 people. However, only 32 have lodged a complaint with the police.

Initially the woman was wanted by the Taba Community Police after her husband lodged a missing persons complaint on May 5, two days after she went missing. The husband said that his wife was pregnant. The woman, a mother of three, doesn’t have any children from her present husband.

The victims of the scam got suspicious after learning that she was missing. They then approached the police to locate her.

According to the husband’s statement to police, the woman was involved in the visa business since 2015. The woman told her husband that she was working for two wealthy women based in the USA. She claimed that three other Bhutanese women worked with the two foreigners.

A police official said that the woman lied to her husband saying that four of them were supposed to leave for the USA last year. However, one had to stay back in the country and look for clients and she was selected to stay in the country.

She told her husband that she will be given USD 6,000/month, the same as the others who had left for the USA to work in a 51-storey shopping mall owned by the two foreigners.

Believing his wife, the husband persuaded his own sister and sister-in-law to invest Nu 300,000 each to process a US visa.

The woman bought home Nu 300,000 every month for about eight months claiming that it was her salary.

The husband has claimed innocence. He was asked to cooperate with police to locate the woman and to be ruled out, the official said. On the night of May 6, the suspect communicated with her husband through a mobile application, WeChat, from an account created in the name of Choney Dema.

The woman told her husband that her foreign friends were arrested in Bangkok for the scam. She flew to Bangkok via Bagdogra in an Indian airline on May 4 along with her friends Yangchen and Choney Dema in fear of getting arrested, she claimed.

The woman also claimed that she gave birth to a baby boy in a Bangkok hospital on May 16. She said that both her and the baby were admitted in different Intensive Care Units in the hospital following complications.

The police official said that the suspect had uploaded a photograph of a baby on WeChat.

The woman rejected her husband’s voice and video calls and responded to his messages through text. When asked why she was not responding to the calls, she said that she was in pain and couldn’t talk.

She added that her friends had not given her the liberty to talk fearing that she may reveal their location in Bangkok.

The husband convinced the suspect that no case has been lodged against her and persuaded her to come back to Bhutan on May 24.

During interrogation, the suspect confessed to have taken money from all the complainants. However, she maintained that she was also a victim of the scam and that the foreigners had taken all the money.

“The woman maintained the same statement that she had said to her husband and the victims during the interrogation,” the official said. “She said that the new born is under the custody of Bangkok hospital since the baby had some complications.”

However, the suspect had failed to produce her travel and medical documents saying that her friend Yangchen had mistakenly taken her handbag from the Chuzom check post, from where she was picked up by her husband.

Further, the suspect failed to produce contact details of her friends and her employers.

The woman was detained and a case of deceptive practice registered against her. However, police found that the woman displayed no signs of recent delivery and that she had undergone tubectomy 11 years back. However, she told her husband that she was pregnant and miscarried twice.

Police also found that she had flown to Bangkok via Drukair on May 16 and returned on May  21. However, immigration records showed that no one by the name of Yangchen and Choney Dema travelled with her that day. The suspect had withdrawn Nu 15,000 from an ATM in the country on May 7.

She confessed to police that till May 16, she went to Takila in Lhuentse to evade police arrest.

Police recovered her passport below the road at Jagongma in Pamtsho, Thimphu and also recovered a Samsung phone from the river side near Chuzom check post.

Police retrieved the data from her mobile phone and found that a photograph of the baby that she had uploaded earlier existed on her phone since last year.

The police official said that the suspect had limited balance in her bank accounts. However, huge amounts of transactions had taken place between 2015-16.

After being presented with the evidence, the suspect admitted that she is the mastermind of the scam and also confessed that all the people she claimed to be involved in the visa business were fictitious.

The suspect also confessed that she fled home after learning that some of her clients had come to Thimphu to lodge a complaint. She also admitted that she misused her husband’s name and reputation to con the people. She also confessed that her husband is not aware of her illegal business.

Police have seized hard currency, jewellery, assets and frozen all her bank accounts.

The case was forwarded to the Office of the Attorney General on June 1.

Dechen Tshomo