OAG to appeal court verdict on 7kg Chinese gold smuggling case

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) decided to appeal against the Chukha district court’s judgment, passed earlier this week, on the case of the four men accused of smuggling 7kgs of Chinese gold.

The judgment that the Chukha district court passed Wednesday, 7th September 2016 convicted Chundu Wangchuk and Rinchen Dorji to two and a half years’ imprisonment of the altered charge of receiving smuggled goods, which is liable to half the punishment of a conviction of smuggling, and for criminal conspiracy. Rinzin was convicted of aiding and abetting the receipt of smuggled goods and will serve 15 months in prison. The OAG had charged all three with smuggling. Kinley Tshering was convicted of criminal conspiracy and will also serve 15 months’ time.

Chundu Wangchuk was also convicted on two counts of obstruction of lawful authority and hindrance to prosecution for breaking through the police barricade in Tsimasham and then hiding the seven gold biscuits in November last year. The sentences are concurrent and non-compoundable.

The judgment stated that the charges were altered because the prosecution could not prove beyond reasonable doubt that the gold was imported and that there were investments of any sort from the convicts in acquiring it. The illegal agreement signed by Chundu Wangchuk, Rinchen Dorji and Kinley Tshering, dated 18 October 2015 was also mentioned stating that it had solely outlined their plans to act as carriers and made no mention of smuggling or import.

Not only is there no intent to smuggle, the act (of Chundu Wangchuk and Rinchen Dorji) being transport from Haa to Chunzom and then till Tsimasham shows the job of carriers only, the judgment read.

In the case of Rinzin, the court wrote that no benefit or payment to him was evident from carrying out the act of smuggling and the agreement had also clearly stated that Rinzin was to be kept in the dark as to the contents of the package he was receiving from the border for them. It also written that Rinzin had not had to “hide and dodge” from the Royal Bhutan Army border posts as he had taken his usual route to and from Haa to his herd.

The OAG had also charged the four with failure to report crime but the court dismissed it reasoning that while it was a lawful duty to report crimes that others were committing, reporting oneself is not mentioned in the penal code. The OAG has until 21st September to officially submit their appeal.

Chundu Wangchuk had been arrested near midnight 15 November 2015 after he had broken through a police barricade at Tsimasham and then hidden the seven gold biscuits with Chinese inscriptions and serial numbers and weighing a kilogram each. The gold was recovered the next day and his accomplices Rinchen Dorji, Kinley Tshering and Rinzin were arrested following police interrogation.

The former three had earlier, on 18 October, signed an agreement whereby they agreed to carry the gold from the northern border to Phuentsholing. The agreement also mentioned that they were to request the yak herder, Rinzin, to pick up the parcel from the border and that he was to be kept in the dark as to the contents. Rinzin had then delivered the package to Rinchen Dorji in Haa which was then relayed to Chundu Wangchuk who was waiting in Chunzom. He was arrested after an anonymous tip off to the police headquarters in Thimphu. Kinley Tshering was to replace Chundu Wangchuk as the transporter from Chunzom to Phuentsholing if that venture had succeeded.

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