Trongsa Dzongkhag Court convicted former Trongsa Dzongda, who is currently the president of Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH), Lhab Tshering, his wife, Karma Tshetim Dolma, former Drakteng Gup, Tenzin, and four other people in connection to an illegal land acquisition, on 14 November 2019.
They are caught for a land scam and illegal acquisition of 4.73 acres of land at Thumgang or ‘View Point’ in Trongsa by Karma Tshetim Dolma and Lhab Dorji in his capacity as Trongsa Dzongda. They then proceeded to build the Raven Resort worth Nu 168.37 million on the land.
Another illegal acquisition of 2.18 acres of land in Drakteng Gewog under Trongsa was made by them. Karma Tshetim Dolma facilitated by Lhab Dorji bought land from private landowners at government rates under guise of government land acquisition.
According to the court records, the Dzongda and his wife illegally acquired the lands to take opportunity of the fact that ILCS was being relocated from Semtokha, Thimphu to Drakteng Gewog in Trongsa.
The former Trongsa Dzongda is convicted to 5 years imprisonment, and he was found guilty on four charges of forgery, three charges of official misconduct and execution of document by deception.
Karma Tshetim Dolma, the wife of the former Trongsa Dzongda, and the former Gup of Drakteng, Tenzin, are convicted to 6 years each. Karma Tshetim Dolma was found guilty on three counts of solicitation, four counts of forgery, official misconduct and for an offence related to witness.
Likewise, Tenzin was found guilty on five counts of forgery, three counts of deceptive practice and for forging the thumbprint of the land seller and the witness.
The Court said that the conviction against Lhab Tshering was actually 13 years and 15 years for Karma Tshetim Dolma and Tenzin. However, they were given a concurrent sentencing with few given reasons, like negligence on the part of the government officials.
In addition, the Court said that a former Drangpon, Ugyen Tenzin, got convicted for one year and six months for forgery. Though the former Gup of Nubi gewog, Phuntsho, got convicted to three years on two counts of forgery, however, the court has given him a concurrent sentencing for one year and six months. However, the Court said that his sentence is non-compoundable.
The court has also convicted Kelzang Nima to one year in prison as he was found guilty of official misconduct. His sentence is compoundable.
The court has convicted the seventh person, Narayan Dangal, to one year and six months in prison for official misconduct and for aiding and abetting.
Meanwhile, the Court acquitted the charges against Nubi Gup, Tashi Penden, former Tshogpa Wangchukla and Kinley. They were initially charged for official misconduct.
The defendants, however, will be appealing to higher court, as they are not satisfied with the judgment, a source said.
The scam essentially was that the former Trongsa Dzongda in the name of acquiring land at government rates of Nu 200 per decimal for the Institute of Languages and Cultural Studies (ILCS) facilitated his wife to buy land at the same government rate from private landowners who thought their land was being acquired by the government.
In a blatant move the signatures, thumb impressions and even witnesses were forged to transfer the land from private landowners to the former Dzongda’s wife with the help of the Gup and others.
The end result was that Karma Tshetim could buy land at government land acquisition rates, claim that the same land had been acquired by ILCS and then apply for land substitution. Then again with the help of her husband the Dzongda who also headed Land Acquisition Committee she got substitute land in an even more lucrative and well located area where the resort is located.
Meanwhile the ACC says that Lhab Dorji delayed the compensation payment and land substitution process by two years to allow his wife to complete her land transaction process.
The scam did not end there and involved creating a fictional plot on the site of the resort to increase the size of the resort area.