As ACC freezes seven plots in Thimphu more details emerge on the land case

In the clearest sign that the Anti Corruption Commission is looking into allegedly illegal land deals in Thimphu involving former Gup Naku, former National Land Commission (NLC) Director Tshewang Gyeltshen and NLC Disputes Settlement Committee head Karma Jamtsho, the ACC issued two freeze notices on 30th of October freezing seven plots of varying sizes belonging to seven people.

An interesting name in the freeze notice is that of NLC’s Dispute Settlement Committee head Karma Jamtsho whose 20 decimal plot in Kawang gewog under Thimphu has been frozen.

Karma Jamtsho had been detained soon after Gup Naku and former NLC Director and now suspended Bhutan Telecom CEO, Tshewang Gyeltshen had been detained in mid October.

Meanwhile, a reliable source told this paper that ACC has been looking into land issues mainly in the former Chang Gewog area after complaints had come on the issue from some people. The complaints were mainly against Gup Naku. This paper has also learnt that the Gup Naku case is separate from the Chang Ugyen case.

The other names of whose properties have been frozen are Tashi Choden with 20 decimals in Mewang, Namgay Wangmo with 33 decimals in Chang, Dawa Sonam and Kinga Choden with 26 decimal in Thimphu Throm, Karma with 11 decimal in Chang, Passang Dema with 22 decimals in Chang and Ting Ting Dema with 11 decimals in Chang.

It has been understood that Namgay Wangmo, Dawa Sonam and Kinga Choden are Gup Naku’s children.

It has also been learnt the 26 decimal land owned by Dawa Sonam and Kinga Choden had been sold to them in the form of two plots in 2005-2006 by the former NLC Director.

Gup Naku many years ago had sold one 11 decimal plot to the Director and another 11 decimal plot to a Director’s family member in Debsi Thimphu though it is not yet clear if the above ACC freeze notification includes these transactions as well.

The ACC recently released Karma Jamtsho and Tshewang Gyeltshen after a 10 to 12 day detention period. They had been detained after questioning. Detentions are a common approach used by ACC to make sure that people being investigated are not able to tamper with evidence.

The ACC detained Gup Naku for two days before he had to be admitted to hospital with a variety of ailments.

Despite the best efforts of The Bhutanese the ACC is still tight lipped on the matter while the family members of the accused have been told by ACC to not reveal any information to the media or public on the case details till the investigation is over.

The last article that this paper did in the light of limited information could only access some land transaction details involving Gup Naku and Tsewang Gyeltshen, official medical records of Gup Naku and professional background and responsibilities of Tshewang Gyeltshen in NLC shared by a NLC colleague.

This paper has so far learnt that Gup Naku was the Chang Gup from the late 1990’s till 2002 after which the Thromde had taken over the administration of the area.

In 2000 after complaints from a few villagers on land issues in Chang gewog, the then Home Ministry put together a committee to look into it after which the issue came up in court. The case, however, did not proceed further as it was resolved among the litigants. It has been learnt that ACC has also looked at the then issues as well.

The ACC is looking into all the land holdings of Gup Naku, including land that he has given to his family members. The ACC is also looking into all land holdings owned by Tshewang Gyeltshen and his family which includes land in Thimphu, Paro and also Gelephu. The ACC apart from questioning Naku and Tshewang also questioned some of their family members and also Land Commission officials. The ACC has also taken some land records from the land record section of the NLC.

The ACC is also looking into the issue of 4.50 acres of land originally owned by late Dasho Nidup Dorji. This paper found that the late Dasho Nidup is the father of Gup Naku. As per a high level committee investigation in 2003, this land was originally a Sokshing located in Khasadrapchu registered in Dasho Nidup’s name in 1967. Sokshing cannot be owned by a person as a private land. The land was claimed to be converted into a Pangzhing (Kamzhing) in 1987 but there were no documents to support this change. In the meantime since the land was acquired by Telecom 4.50 acres Satshab was allocated at Gangchey in Chang by a local satshab committee that included Gup Naku and Tshewang Gyeltshen.

This was also in the backdrop of some other land deals between Gup Naku and Tshewang Gyeltshen mentioned above. Tshewang Gyeltshen with a long career, technical experience and senior post in the NLC was the main man in charge and entrusted with verifying and processing such Satshab. Of the 4.50 acres in Gangchey Gup Naku had inherited 50 decimals while his sisters got the rest.

The 2003 high level committee report had recommended that the thram be deleted and 4.50 acres of sokshing be restored to its original status.

Meanwhile reports in the national newspaper taken from sources outside ACC threw more light on the issue.

According to the national paper the former Gup took an 11 decimal land from a woman in exchange for helping register a three acre land. The woman had been questioned by ACC.

The paper said that another person questioned by ACC had sold a 46 decimal satshab Thram in Thimphu to the former Gup after which the Gup measured an area called Dolungkha for himself. There is no record of such land with the Thromde office but instead there are two plots there called Khimjab at the location of which one plot is 1.06 acres.

The paper also quoted another person interviewed by ACC who said that he had been given a three acre Kasho land. He had identified the land at Sorthangkha Debsi but since he was not present for the measurement a relative of his measured the land at a different place. He had asked the former Gup and Mangmi to help in exchange for some land. The man finally only got a two acre land registered in his Thram at Sorthangkha.

According to the national paper Naku who is originally from Mewang Gewog today has about 2.4 acres in the Thimphu thromde, and about 60 decimal in Chang gewog registered in his name.

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