No evidence leads to ACC dropping case against Foreign Minister

The Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) recently took a decision to drop its case against the current Foreign Minister Lyonpo Damcho Dorji in his capacity as the Mongar Drangpon in 2002.

This was after the ACC investigated the case for six months based on an anonymous letter alleging that the Drangpon had been bribed for giving a lighter sentence in a Chorten vandalism case.

An ACC official said, “For any abuse or wrong action somebody has to benefit and so ACC has to prove some benefit but there was no evidence of the Drangpon being bribed and so there was no case.”

The official said that in the six months period the ACC interrogated around 17 people to the extent of even investigating hearsay.

The anonymous letter had alleged that a contractor named Ugyen Tshering had bribed the Drangpon to reduce the life sentence of a convicted man from life imprisonment to ten years.

When the ACC on two occassions interviewed Ugyen Tshering who is currently serving life imprisonment in Chamgang jail for chorten vandalism he denied bribing the Drangpon and in fact denied even knowing him.

The ACC also interrogated the person whose sentence had been reduced but he also did not have any knowledge of the issue. An ACC official said that the man in question was a very impoverished one and not with any capacity to bribe anyone.

Questioning even the then Superintendent of Police and the Officer in Command also yielded no results.

The ACC also detained and questioned the bench clerk who had prepared the 10 year court order. The bench clerk claimed that he did it on the instructions of the Drangpon but again he did not have evidence to prove that he had been given such an instruction.

An ACC official said that the investigation team had reported back to the investigation committee with its findings on the case. The investigation committee had not found adequate evidence to further pursue the case and so it was put up with this information to the Commission which based on the information of the committee dropped the case.

The Foreign Minister during a meet the press session last month admitted to an oversight but denied any corruption.

The Foreign Minister said that in 2002 around 15 years ago he was transferred from Gelephu to Mongar as the judge and in a year he handled around 700 different cases.

Lyonpo said that since he was one of the few qualified Judges he spent quite of lot of time travelling to Thimphu as he was part of the Constitution Drafting committee from 2001 onwards and he was also involved in drafting the Bhutan Penal Code that got passed in 2004.

He said as a result his stay in Mongar was limited while the workload was still there.

Lyonpo said that in 2002 he adjudicated a Chorten vandalization case with a judgment for life imprisonment. He said that the convicted had 10 days to appeal and with no appeal the bench clerk informed the police in writing saying that a person has been convicted from a certain date to another date.

Lyonpo said that as a Drangpon he had to sign more than 100 papers everyday, as they get summons for people from Mongar district by the 20 district and Dungkhag courts and he also sent out summons.

He said that when he signed and sent the letter to the police instead of life imprisonment (minimum of 15 years) it was instead 10 years. He said that he took responsibility for the oversight word to word, but said what really concerned him was an anonymous letter alleging that he had been bribed.

The minister denied knowing or meeting the person who was alleged to have bribed him in the anonymous letter.

The Prime Minister at the time said that even if the ACC wants to file a legal case the Foreign Minister has asked him to not let the OAG take up the legal case but allow the ACC to legally charge the case directly by itself to avoid any conflict of interest.

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