In yet another instance of duping people over land deals, Phajo Nidup, in mid 2021 had entered into a legal agreement to buy 4 acres of land in Kabesa, Thimphu from local resident, Dawa Zangpo, for Nu 170 million (mn) , but Phajo paid only Nu 800,000 or Nu 0.8 mn, and drew up a fake Power of Attorney to sell this land to other unsuspecting buyers.
Dawa Zangpo filed a complaint with the Taba Community Police who detained Phajo Nidup on 21 September 2021, but at the time, Phajo managed to get a bail by the next day on 22 September 2021.
It started in 2021 when Dawa Zangpo’s son, Dawa Singye, who is a petty contractor, met Phajo Nidup in Zilukha, Thimphu as Phajo was looking to rent an empty house from Dawa Singye.
Dawa Singye said, “Phajo told me he also does real estate business to buy and sell land, and he enquired whether I had any land to sell. I told him I am only a petty contractor, and though my father has some land, he will probably not sell.”
When Dawa Singye was doing some construction work in Wangduephodrang around two to three months later, Phajo had called him saying that the bank is sanctioning him with Nu 200 mn and he would like to buy his father’s land.
The information was conveyed to Dawa Zangpo, who then discussed the matter with his children.
What convinced Dawa Zangpo and his children to sell the land was a long cherished wish of his to do extensive repairs of the Dzondrakha Lhakhang complex in Paro and build new meditation structures there.
Dawa Zangpo discussed with the Lam of Dzondrakha Lhakhang complex, and the Lam even got the permission of the government and the Zhung Dratshang to do repairs and build new meditation structures.
Dawa Zangpo even took Phajo to meet the Lam, and Phajo, to sweeten the deal, promised an additional Nu 10 mn as donation to the project above the Nu 170 mn for the land. He also praised the 70-year-old Dawa Zangpo for such a noble religious project.
The Nu 170 mn price was derived from the price per decimal being around Nu 425,000.
Dawa Singye said that Phajo Nidup then told them the land would be replotted and sold at Nu 600,000 per decimal, and they can even keep the trees he removes from the place.
Like in other cases, Phajo Nidup also suitably impressed Dawa Singye and his father with his fleet of luxury cars, his staff and his plush office in Taba.
Dawa Zangpo signed the sale deed to the property and Phajo Nidup drew up Nu 170 mn in three cheques of Nu 70 mn, Nu 50 mn and Nu 50 mn each, with the condition that they encash or withdraw the cheques only after a certain time period.
In the meantime, the sale deed and other documents were deposited at the Gewog Office for the one month cooling period. Phajo Nidup only paid Nu 800,000 as advance ,saying it was money for the tendrel and to get the no objection signatures from family members.
Dawa Zangpo had some border dispute at one border stretch of the land, and he told Phajo that this needs to be resolved before the transaction can go ahead fully, but Phajo assured him that he would resolve the matter and so took a letter from Dawa Zangpo authorizing him to resolve the dispute at the border.
In addition to this document, Phajo made a fake Power of Attorney document with a forged thumbprint that said that Dawa Zangpo is authorizing Phajo Nidup to sell his lands.
Phajo made use of these documents to bypass the cooling period and he started selling plots to innocent buyers.
Dawa Singye said he heard that Phajo Nidup has already started selling the land, but what made him suspicious is that Phajo was selling it at a low rate of Nu 270,000 per decimal, and he had already sold 1 acre and 20 decimals to around a dozen buyers. This was within 16 days of the sale deed without even the cooling period being over.
The father and son then went to the bank to withdraw their money, but they found that far from the Nu 170 mn in the account, it had only around Nu 20,000 in balance.
Alarmed they put up letters in the Gewog and the Dzongkhag to stop the land transaction.
The Thimphu Dzongda called both the parties,and Phajo Nidup, in front of the Dzongda, agreed to pay the money within a week or return the land.
Then Dawa Zangpo and Phajo Nidup drew up another agreement to cancel the earlier sales deed. However, here the land buyers from Phajo got wind of this and they put up a civil case in the Thimphu Dzongkhag Court against both Phajo Nidup and Dawa Zangpo saying they were duped.
In the meantime, after finding out about the fake Power of Attorney, which Phajo kept insisting was real, Dawa Zangpo and his family filed a complaint with the Taba Community Police.
The police detained Phajo on 21 September 2021, but Phajo managed to get bail the next day.
The police conducted its investigation including a forensic analysis and concluded that the thumb print on the Power of Attorney did not belong to Dawa Zangpo, but was a forged one. The police sent its findings to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) on 17 November 2021 and OAG charge sheeted the case to the Thimphu District Court on 11 January 2022 against Phajo Nidup as a criminal case of forgery.
Phajo has claimed in court that the Power of Attorney is real.
In the meantime, while Phajo placated some of the buyers by giving them land in Paro, there are around two or three still pursuing a separate civil case in the Thimphu District Court against both Phajo Nidup and Dawa Zangpo demanding to have the Kabesa land that they paid for.
Phajo is already embroiled in various cases where he is accused of cheating land buyers in Phuentsholing, land sellers in Paro and now in Thimphu.
The Royal Monetary Authority (RMA) has forwarded to the Anti-Corruption Commission, the Nu 657 mn of loans by Financial Institutions given to Phajo Nidup that has several issues like double and triple mortgages, etc.
There have been verdicts issued against him by the Phuentsholing Dungkhag Court to pay back land buyers he cheated out of millions with even arrest warrants being issued, but he has managed to get a stay on those Court warrants from the Supreme Court.
He was recently detained by Thimphu police as part of a fraudulent cheque writing case where two land sellers in Paro were duped of Nu 23 mn and Nu 6.8 mn by him. He bought the land in Paro and even resold it, but gave cheques for the land , which later bounced.