The Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) has been engaged in one of the highest forms of national service for the past few months in the border town of Phuentsholing.
ACC has managed to crack a gang of prominent businessmen in Phuentsholing who in collusion with corrupt government officials engaged in a massive illegal rupee trade business.
The modus operandi over the last few years, ever since there were rupee restrictions, was to create fake import bills on zero tax items worth billions and then claim rupees from the Central Bank. It appears that this rupee was then sold for a five to ten percent commission to traders across the border looking for rupee to replace the Ngultrum received from Bhutanese customers.
This was at a time, when, to address the rupee crisis, the government borrowed a total of Nu 15 bn and paid an interest of Nu 1.2 bn on these rupee borrowings.
This is also at a time when it is still very difficult to get rupee for ordinary people travelling for pilgrimage or for students travelling for studies. It is also at a time when traders across the border continue to devalue the Ngultrum by up to five percent.
While the nation’s economy and its people suffered a few corrupt businessman and officials, through their criminal behavior, caused huge losses to the government and the economy.
The whole cause of the rupee crisis was excessive imports and it was these criminals who made it worse for the whole country.
The government of the day instead of leaving it just to a few ACC officials should launch an all out investigation of its own or at least assist ACC to the best of its abilities. If the dirt in Phuntsholing is not cleared then the very heart of the nation’s economy will be compromised.
For too long, these economic parasites have been thriving in Phuentsholing with the knowledge, and at times, active connivance of officials and other prominent individuals.
It is only now that we find out how the scale of their greed and destructive economic impact on Bhutan. The level of their rupee business not only distorted the negative trade balance but it also distorted national trade and economic data.
The government should learn from the ACC investigations and put in place systemic checks and proper infrastructure to make sure such things never happens in the future again.
The ACC must be commended for exposing the level of rot in Phuntsholing. Nobody should be spared and all the guilty must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Corruption is a true enemy to development.