27 Immigration Officials in line for termination

Out of a total of 83 cases filed by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) around 73 have been convicted in the Phuntsholing Immigration scam investigated by the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC).

Of the 73 convicted so far there are 27 Department of Immigration officials who as per the Bhutan Civil Service Rules (BCSR) stand to be terminated unless they can get the appeal courts to overturn the Dungkhag court verdict.

The terminations, once and if they happen, will be the largest number to date under the Royal Civil Service Commission.

The terminations will happen immediately if the 27 fail to appeal in the 10 days or it will take place in the longer run if the higher court upholds the Dungkhag court verdict.

Section 20.2.6.1 of the BCSR says, “RCSC/Agency may terminate a civil servant upon conviction by Court of Law for criminal offences of misdemeanor and above related to the discharge of official functions.”

The 27 official have all been charged with misdemeanor for which the minimum sentence is one year and the maximum is less than three years. The sentences have been around a year plus and so all of them can pay thrimthue in lieu of imprisonment. The charge is as per the section 43.1 (a) of the ACC Act that talks of Passive bribery which means the receiving of bribes.

Seven of them in addition to misdemeanor have been charged with a felony of the Fourth degree for Tampering with official documents which carries a minimum sentence of five years and a maximum of below nine years. Here, prison term has to be served. The court has sentenced seven of them to a five year imprisonment term. So far all seven of them have appealed to the Chukha district court.

The seven are Immigration Officer Sonam Jamtsho followed by Immigration Inspectors Chogyal Wangdi, Kuenzang Tshering, Sangay Tenzin, Kuenzang Thinley, Karma Tshering and Thuktenla.

A RCSC official said that in the case of the 27 they will get an opportunity to exhaust all their appeals and after that if the verdict is still guilty then the Human Resource Committee of the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs will have to terminate them.

The official said that the ministry as per the BCSR has no provision to reduce the termination to compulsory retirement or other fines but will have to strictly implement termination.

On termination a civil servant as per the BCSR loses his or her entitlement to various benefits. The terminated civil servant will only get his or her contribution of the provident fund. There will be no pension benefits except for the refund of contributions made to the pension account.

Of the 30 charged, two of the officials have been acquitted while the verdict for a third one has been deferred pending additional evidence.

Two police officials Gagpa Jigme Yozer and Gopa Ugyen have also been convicted of misdemeanor for passive bribery. The two would also be terminated from the Royal Bhutan Police if they fail to appeal or overturn the verdict in appeal courts.

Four taxi drivers have been convicted for active bribery in giving bribes which are misdemeanors.

45 private citizens consisting of Foreign Workers Recruitment Agency (FWRA) employers, employees, enterprise owners and other private individuals have been convicted mainly on active bribery charges coming mainly to misdemeanor.

One taxi driver and a private citizen have been acquitted, four are on deferment pending additional evidence and one woman is yet to turn up in court.

The ACC in an investigation from November 2013 to December 2014 uncovered various corrupt practices between immigration officials, FWRA employers and employees, taxi drivers, police officials and laborers. Immigration officials were basically bribed to facilitate easy entry and exit of laborers, reduce fines in exchange for bribes, give unauthorized work permits etc.

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