Phajo Nidup sentenced to 21 years for 17 cases 

Several Bank, Thromde, RSTA, NLC and RBP officials also sentenced

The Special Bench set up on 5 September 2022 by the Supreme Court to hear an array of criminal and civil cases against Phajo Nidup delivered its verdict on 17 criminal cases involving Phajo on 14th and 15th March 2024. 

Of this 14 were investigated by ACC while 3 were investigated by the RBP. 

Phajo was sentenced to 21 years 1 month and 27 days. The sentencing break up is 8 years 11 months 29 days for bribery, 2 years 11 months 29 days for deceptive practice, 4 years 11 months and 29 days for forgery, 2 years 8 months for tampering with documents and 1 year 6 months for solicitation.

Out of the total sentence, 15 years 5 months 28 days will be considered a felony and the rest will be subject to Thrimthue.

Two officials of the Phuentsholing Thromde were also sentenced. Phajo Nidup obtained loans fraudulently by mortgaging the same land located at Phuentsholing multiple times in different banks. Record of properties mortgaged with banks (property lien) in Phuentsholing area is maintained by the Phuentsholing Thromde office.

However, Phajo Nidup with the connivance of Thromde officials in the Land & Survey Division line noted the same property (land) multiple times and availed multiple loans. Moreover, Thromde officials issued new Lag Thrams to Phajo Nidup without canceling the old ones during the land transaction. This has allowed Phajo Nidup to retain two original Lag Thram for the same land in the name of the old landowner as well as the new landowner. Phajo Nidup used these Lag Thrams to obtain loans from the banks.

The senior Administrative Assistant in the Land and Survey Division Deki abused her official position and issued Phajo Nidup 12 lien notings for lands that were already mortgaged with other banks. As a gratification for helping him, she received Nu 0.67 million. Land Record Assistant Chimi Lhadon issued 1 lien noting for the land which was already mortgaged with another bank and she also issued 4 new Lag Thrams without collecting the old ones.. She received Nu. 130,000 from Phajo Nidup for all the help she rendered him. 

Deki was sentenced to 4 years 6 months 25 days for bribery and abuse of function and and Chimi got 3 years and 6 months for bribery, abuse of functions and tampering with documents. 

Phajo and Phuentsholing: The majority of Phajo’s cases took place in Phuentsholing

Phajo Nidup had bribed three NLCS officials amounting to Nu. 468,000 in obtaining multiple copies of Lag Thrams for the same land which Phajo used as collateral to avail loans from Druk PNB Ltd, BNB and BoB amounting to Nu. 27.52 mn.

3 NLC officials were sentenced. They are Damchoe Lhendup for 2 years and 10 months for bribery and abuse of function, Rinchen Dorji for 2 years for bribery and solicitation and Tsheten Dorji for 1 year and 6 months for bribery. 

Phajo Nidup, with the connivance of Dungkhag officials in the Land Record Section, lien noted the same property (land) multiple times and availed multiple loans. Phajo paid Nu. 40,000 to two officials of the dungkhang.

Here Sonam Rabgay was sentenced to 2 years 2 months for bribery and abuse of functions and restitution of Nu 20,000 to the state

Lhamo Dema was sentenced to 2 years 1 month for bribery and abuse of functions and restitution of Nu 20,000 to the state. 

Two RBP officials were also sentenced for not arresting Phajo or letting him go in civil cases when courts issued warrants against Phajo.They are Lt Colonel Thukten Choezang sentenced to 4 years 10 months for Bribery, Tampering with documents, and offense related to witnesses. He has to restitute Nu. 360,000 he got from Phajo. 

Drimpon Karma Thinley was sentenced to 2 years 7 months for Bribery and abuse of functions. He has to restitute Nu. 231,900 he got from Phajo.

Phajo Nidup registered 22 fictitious vehicles with RSTA and also did comprehensive insurance for 19 of them with the connivance of RSTA officials, staff of Bhutan Insurance Ltd. (BIL), Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan Ltd. (RICBL) and Zimbi Motors, Phuentsholing.

It was done to fraudulently obtain loans from the bank, and he availed loans of Nu. 31.02 million from BoBL. The investigation also revealed that Phajo Nidup had bribed an RSTA official, staff, amounting to Nu. 1.189 million.

Here Nado from RSTA was sentenced to 8 years 5 months for bribery, abuse of function and tampering with public records of which 3 years and 6 months is felony. 

From RICBL, Neten Tshering was sentenced to 1 year for abuse of functions and Sonam Dargay was sentenced to 1 year 6 months for abuse of functions.

9 employees of Druk PNB were sentenced for huge loans given to Phajo coming to around Nu 300 mn. These are former CEO Devendra Kumar Gupta sentenced for 1 year due to abuse of function, Deputy CEO Ash Bdr Rai sentenced for 2 years and 3 months for bribery and abuse of function. 

Then the sentence for abuse of function was for Arun Putu Siri for 1 year, Yonten Dorji for 1 year, TilakChan Gimiri 1 year three months, Sherab Gyeltshen for 1 year 1 month, Thuji Zangpo for 2 years 4 months, Kezang Phuntsho for 1 year 1 month and Tshering for 1 year 9 months. 

Phajo Nidup and associates in connivance with the former BoB Branch Manager of Gedu fraudulently availed a total of 11 loans, i.e. 8 transport loans and 3 Trade and Commerce overdraft loans amounting to Nu.73.67 mn from BoBL Gedu Branch. 

Loans were also taken from the Phuentsholing branch with similar issues and they may all total around 300 mn

6 employees of BoB were also sentenced around large loans given to Phajo. These are Tashi Tenzin for 3 years and 1 month for bribery and official misconduct, Dorji Wangchuk for 6 years and 11 months for bribery and official misconduct, Til Bhadhur Gurung for 3 years and 7 months for bribery and official misconduct, Tek Bdr Tiwari for 3 years and two months for bribery and abuse of function, Karma Yezer for 1 year 3 months for official misconduct and Kezang Tashi is for 2 year and 6 months for bribery and abuse of function. 

From 2015 to 2018, Phajo Nidup  in connivance with officials of BNB Phuentsholing, availed a total of 16 loans amounting to Nu. 57.16 mn of which Nu 53.24 mn is due. 2 employees of BNBL were also sentenced. They are Lobzang Nima sentenced to 4 years 2 months for bribery and abuse of function and Kinley Dorji sentenced to 4 years 6 months for bribery and abuse of function. 

Phajo with the complicity of the officials of BDBL, Branch Office, Phuentsholing had fraudulently availed a total of three loans amounting to Nu. 16.40 mn by mortgaging the properties which were already pledged with other banks. Phajo Nidup has executed two sale deeds or agreements to deceive the bank. Phajo Nidup paid a bribe of Nu 200,000  to two officials of BDBL for their assistance in securing the loans. 

2 employees of BDBL who were sentenced were Tandin Dorji sentenced to 2 years 5 months and Yeshi K Tshering sentenced to 2 years 3 months with both being for bribery and abuse of function. 

1 employee of T-Bank Ashok Subba was sentenced to 1 year and 2 months for official misconduct. 

Four employees of Zimbi Motors were sentenced.  Sangay Rabten was sentenced to 3 years 5 months for bribery and solicitation and aiding and abetting. Sanjiv Nirola was sentenced to 2 years 3 months for forgery. Sagar Gurung was sentenced to 1 year for forgery and Sangay Yonten was Sentenced to 1 year 7 months for forgery. They enabled fake receipts for car purchases so that Phajo could get loans. 

12 private individuals were also sentenced. These are Dawa Zangpo sentenced to 3 months for reporting of false information, Leki Khandu sentenced to 1 month 15 days for aiding and abetting, Raju Upreeti sentenced to 2 months for deceptive practice.

Others are Karma Tenzin sentenced to 1 year 6 months for deceptive practice and forgery, Jigme sentenced to 3 years for forgery, Kinley Wangdi sentenced to 7 months for aiding and abetting, Tshering Wangyel sentenced to 2 months for deceptive practice, Chandra Bdr Ghalley sentenced to 5 months for deceptive practice and Leki Dorji sentenced to 2 years 10 months for bribery and forgery. 

Karma Tenzin was sentenced to 1 year 5 months for deceptive practice and forgery, Karma Nidup sentenced to 7 months for deceptive practice and participation in offense and 

Madhan Lama was sentenced to 6 months for aiding and abetting.

Choten Dorji was acquitted for the fraudulent cheque writing case to do with a land transaction in Paro.

Hearing of civil cases including loan cases involving PhajoNidup and others will be resuming soon following the completion of the judgements in the criminal cases. The civil judgments will focus on recoveries of the amount which will run into hundreds of millions touching around Nu 800 mn in Phajo’s cases. 

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