Office of the Attorney General

OAG chargesheets two overseas employment cases involving former Labour Minister and current Labour DG

The OAG has chargesheeted the ACC’s overseas employment case involving the the Japan Learn and Earn Program (LEP) case and an Indian agent’s case to the Thimphu District court yesterday.

The Indian agent case involves the former Labour Minister and his wife and niece, the current Labour DG and his son and a hotel general manager.

The Japan LEP case involves the DG and a labour assistant program officer.

Japan LEP case

In the Japan LEP case the ACC’s investigation was limited to Bhutan.

The charge here is omission amounting to abuse of function against the Director General of Department of Employment and Human Resources (DoEHR) Sherab Tenzin and assistant program officer Ugyen Tashi.

The DG and program officer got the signature from the Secretary and issued the Bhutan Employment Overseas (BEO) the registration certificate to further get the license even though BEO did not submit the complete and necessary documents.

The DG and the assistant program officer favored him because they knew that the documents were incomplete.

So the BEO license is also illegal because the BEO agent obtained it illegally.

Indian agent case

A senior attorney of the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) said initially as per the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC), they had only one charge against the former Labour Minister Ngeema Sangay Tshempo -which is false declaration of assets.

However, OAG has found out five additional charges against the former labour minister.

An excavator was bought under the name of Pema Tshomo, niece of former labour minister, and Dilu Giri, General Manager of Hotel Druk but the former labour minister did not declare himself as the sole owner of the excavator in 2016.

Under deceptive practice, there are two counts for the ex-minister. The first charge is that the former labour minister bought the excavator under his niece’s name. So OAG has charged him because he has deceived Bhutan National Bank (BNB) while availing the loan. The niece and the hotel manager were just used as proxies and the actual owner was the former labour minister and an Indian agent. So they had deceptively taken a loan from BNB.

The second charge against the former labour minister is deceptively obtaining the trade license (M/s Tshomo Hiring) from the Department of Trade and using his niece and the manager as a proxy.

The third charge against the former labour minister is official misconduct. The former labour minister chose to do business with an Indian contactor who is supervised by MoLHR. He is not authorized to work with someone who works with MoLHR.

The fourth charge against him is larceny by deception. There are two counts on this. The first is that he bought a gem stone worth Nu 85,000 from Manav Dhingra in 2015 and he has not paid for it till now. So OAG in their finding said that he had no intention to pay.

Another count is he bought a Rudraksh rosary worth of Nu 71,000 from him in 2015 and he has not paid for it too.

The DG  Sherab Tenzin was charged with conflict of interest, omission amounting to abuse of function, deceptive practices and official misconduct.

The reason for charging him for conflict of interest was because the DG and the Indian agent partnered up to open a tissue manufacturing unit for the DG’s son Kezang Ninda. Since the Indian agent himself works for MoLHR for training Bhutanese youth, the DG is not supposed to work or start up any business with the agent.

The DG also obtained the license (M/s Jana Tissues) and bought machine worth Nu 14 lakhs from Delhi with Manav giving Nu 589,000 for it.

The Indian agent participated in the tender opening by MoLHR where the DG was a committee member. So this clearly showed a conflict of interest.

Another charge is deceptive practice, where the DG had obtained license for tissue manufacturing unit deceptively by concealing the fact that his business partner or the investor was the Indian agent knowing the fact that only Bhutanese citizens can obtain a trade license.

Official misconduct was another charge against the DG in the case of the Indian agent.

The former labour minister’s niece was charged on two counts of deceptive practices. The first count is she agreed to get loan from BNB under her name. She did not tell the bank about the investor who is an Indian.

The second count is getting the license under her name by deceiving the department of trade.

The GM of Hotel Druk, was used in place of the Indian investor. He was promised that he will be given 30 percent of profits from the machine hiring. He also stands charged.

Namgay Lhamo, wife of former labour minister was also charged with deceptive practice. She is new in the case. She was charged because she helped her niece in processing her loan.

The DG’s son Kezang Ninda was charged with deceptive practice. He agreed to the plans and obtained the trade license under his name by deceiving the Trade Department.

The OAG has also put some amount for restitution to the court. The Indian agent has invested Nu 3 million in the excavator costing a total of Nu 6.9 mn.

The money used for buying the excavator and tissue machine was availed through deceptive practices. So the OAG has said the government has to confiscate the money.

The excavator was sold to the Eastern Bhutan Coal Company Ltd when the case was still going on with the ACC. Actually the excavator was to be seized but then it was already sold. Now the OAG is asking for the actual cost of the excavator which is Nu 6.9 mn.

The OAG has prayed to the court to confiscate the Jana Tissue machine of the DG.

When the former labour minister and his partner gave the excavator for hiring, they had around Nu 3.5 mn net profit from 2016 to 2018. Out of this amount, the Druk Hotel GM took Nu 1.35 mn. So all these amounts need to be returned back to the government.

The minister has to return back the Rudraksh and gem stone to the Indian agent.

Background

The overseas programs were handed over for investigation by the former Prime Minister Dasho Tshering Tobgay in January 2018.

A then press release issued by the former government said, “The investigation has been requested based on the several informal complaints received by the Office of the Prime Minister on possible incidences of corruption and collusion by the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources, particularly in awarding contracts relating to trainings in India and Japan.”

The Former Labour Minister was also sent on leave by the former Prime Minister till the investigation process was complete. The former minister was even denied a party ticket with the fallout of the case.

Separate RBP investigation in Japan LEP case

In the Japan LEP case the parents and students said the ACC investigation was incomplete and they approached the RBP on 27th June.

The RBP on 30th July arrested the BEO partners Tenzin Rigden and Jurmey Tshewang for forgery of bank statements. The RBP is still investigating additional charges of forgery and other charges of deceptive practice, harassment, abandonment of person in danger and trafficking against the BEO agents.

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