The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) filed multiple charges coming to around 199 counts against multiple individuals in what is popularly known as the ‘Gelephu Losel Cinema case’.
Gelephu Dungpa, Pema Wangdi, who is the main accused and at the center of the case faces the maximum charges, coming to around 21 charges with 70 counts in multiple cases. The charges are for offences like forgery, solicitation, embezzlement, abuse of functions etc and the counts are the number of times those charges can be applied for separate instances.
Embezzling Nu 10.63 mn
The main case is the embezzling of Nu 10.63 mn of fixed deposit money by the Dungpa that originally belonged to the Late 16th Gyalwa Karmapa.
The Gelephu Losel Cinema and some surrounding structures were owned by the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa. These properties were managed by a Dezang Chhoka, who worked as the Manager.
Dezang Chhoka, deposited INR 2,950,564.00 on April 2004 in his name and INR 2,717,416 in the joint account of Dezang Chhoka and Ungay Bhutia in fixed deposits in an Indian bank in Sikkim.
Dezang Chhoka passed away at Gelephu in 2006 and just before he died, he shared information on those fixed deposits.
Subsequently the management of the properties was entrusted to the Gelephu Dungkhag Administration and signing of cheque and other issues were dealt by Dungpa and Superintendent of Police in Gelephu.
In the meantime the fixed deposits deposited in 2004 had doubled to Nu 10.36 mn in Sikkim.
The Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) investigations found that in a demonstration of extraordinary brazenness and cunning, Dungpa Pema Wangdi, using his position, did everything to repatriate the fixed deposits, including writing letters to many agencies both within and outside the country soliciting assistance, preparing false documents and affidavits.
He was helped in this task by Sonam Norbu, an Administration Assistant who was sent by the Dungpa to represent the Royal Government of Bhutan in a Civil Court in Gangtok, Sikkim. Gyaltshen Yeshi, who worked as a rent collector of the properties, also accompanied Sonam Norbu to Gangtok for the court appearances.
Finally, when the deposits amounting to Nu 10.36 mn came back, the very next working day Dungpa Pema Wangdi withdrew the entire sum from the official accounts and kept it with himself.
To justify his embezzlement, the Dungpa used his position to coerce witnesses to give their signatures and he also gave directions to his subordinates to do illegal acts.
The Dungpa and Sonam Norbu even tampered with Sikkim Court judgment for their personal benefit.
The Dungpa sent Sonam Norbu back to Gangtok to fetch legal stamp papers and instructed him to prepare fake agreements and money receipts to increase the lawyer’s fees from Nu 150,000 to Nu 3.19 mn and court fee from Nu 120 to Nu 377,571 and transfer fee from Nu 20,000.00 to Nu 319,120.
The Dungpa and Sonam Norbu created a Mr Cheythrim as a fake nephew of Dezang Chhoka to claim Nu 4 mn as his share.
Dungpa Pema Wangdi bribed Sonam Norbu with a total of Nu 900,000 in three separate occasions.
Fraud in rent and management of Losel cinema
Dungpa Pema Wangdi along with Sonam Norbu engaged in fraud and corruption in maintenance of Losel Cinema and its surrounding properties. To carry this out the Dungpa transferred the accounting responsibilities from a trained accounts personnel, Dechen Pelden to Sonam Norbu.
Basically fake and excess expenses were shown which were in turn deducted to embezzle the rent money.
Sonam Norbu also embezzled money from the rent through fraud and forgery. He tutored a witness Shamu Chattri, Proprietor of Sarda Hardwares and Electrical, Dadgiri to show false expenses.
According to the ACC, the reroofing contract work of Losel Cinema and other buildings was given by the Dungpa Pema Wangdi to his girlfriend, Tshering Kiba, the proprietor of Kholo Construction under the pretext that there were no other contractors willing to take below Nu. 1.7 mn.
The Dungpa also favored Tshering Kiba by passing mobilization advance without following Procurement Rules and Regulations 2009, paying material advance against forged bills and releasing the 10 percent retention money before completion of the defect liability period.
The Dungpa and Tshering Kiba are charged for bribery through sexual favors by ACC. Both the Dungpa and Tshering Kiba had their own spouses but the latter was divorced in court by her husband on the grounds of her extra- marital affair with the Dungpa, according to ACC.
Since the work did not follow open tendering process and was awarded illegally, the contract needs to be declared void and the entire contract amount of Nu. 1.617 mn must be restituted by the contractor.
Fraud in maintenance of Tsachu
Dungpa Pema Wangdi also committed fraud and corruption in the maintenance of the Tsachu and management of the Shershong Community Group Account. The Dungpa after frightening the committee members took over the management of Shershong Community Group Account which was credited with Nu. 1.35 mn for the community to carry out maintenance of the Tsachu.
The Dungpa shared this information with his son Tobgay Dradul, proprietor of T. Dradul construction. His son in turn shared this information with his friend Jigme Wangchuk, proprietor of Jigson Construction. The duo prepared three bids and submitted the rigged bids to the Dungpa. The ACC said that since the contract was defrauded from the beginning, the Commission declared the contract to be illegal and asked for total restitution of the cost.
Boundary wall construction
Again showing special favour Tshering Kiba the contract work for construction of the Indo-Bhutan security wall was awarded by the Dungpa to Kholo Construction for a quoted value of Nu. 1.75 mn even when Pelden Lhamo Construction had quoted a much lower Nu 1.35 mn. This was also despite the fact that other committee members raised objections.
The Dungpa further favored Tshering Kiba by giving three additional works on restoration of the security wall. After the work was awarded to Kholo Construction, the Dungpa called Pelden Lhamo, the proprietor of Pelden Lhamo Construction and asked her to put up a no objection letter for awarding the work to Kholo Construction.
ACC said that since the contract work was illegally awarded by the Dungpa based on favoritism to his girlfriend, the total payment amounting to Nu. 2.59 mn paid to Tshering Kiba is illegal and must be recovered.
Tokay Gecko trafficking
This investigation found trafficking of Tokay Gecko by the Dungpa who, abusing his official position, sent Subba to fetch Tokay Gecko. When Subba was intercepted by Forest Officials, the Dungpa tutored Subba not to disclose his name. Subsequently, Subba was fined Nu. 100,000 which was paid by the Dungpa from the money that was repatriated from Sikkim.
The ACC found that the contract work on the renovation of crematorium was also awarded violating tender rules. Information about the work was leaked by Junior Engineer, Kesang Dorji who also purchased two sets of tender documents on behalf of Jigme Wangchuk. Both the bids, one in the name Jigson Construction and the other in the name Ugyen Gyeltshen Construction were prepared and submitted by Mr. Jigme Wangchuk. Kesang also recommended for awarding the work to Jigme Wangchuk. Kesang Dorji, favored Jigme Wangchuk and Tobgay Dradul by inserting a BNBL Draft as bid security to avert rejection. Further. Kesang also favored Jigme Wangchuk by submitting an undertaking application for mobilization advance and Dungpa Pema Wangdi approved it even when Dechen Pelden, the Dungkhag accountant, objected to the payment since it was not backed by a bank guarantee.
Kesang Dorji certified and made entries in the measurement book and forwarded the bills to the accounts for payment, knowingly well that there was no material delivered at the site and the Dungpa in turn approved the material advance. ACC said since the tender was defrauded from the beginning it, needs to be declared as illegal and Jigme Wangchuk needs to restitute Nu. 950,311.
Dungpa’s land, trucks and cash
The ACC in their investigation found that the Dungpa tried to lie to the investigation team when he was asked about the purchase of two tipper trucks. He first claimed that the cash was from selling his land at Phuentsholing but this was not found to be true.
It was found that those two plots were taken as commission for finding land substitutes from the farmers who Dungpa Pema Wangdi was required to serve as the then Dzongrab of Chukha.
The Dungpa’s house and office was searched and ACC tracked the remaining Nu 3.4 mn on June 2014.
The Commission also froze transactions of three plots, two in the name of Dungpa Pema Wangdi and one in the name of Mr. Sonam Norbu.
Including the Dungpa charges have been framed against 23 individuals who have indulged in or aided and abetted in corrupt acts. Besides criminal prosecution, the total restitution from this case is Nu.19.34 mn. ACC has also suspended eight contract licenses, seized two tripper trucks and one i 20 car.
The investigation team even went to India to conduct their investigations also demonstrating the cross border investigation capability of the ACC.