On 16 February 2021, the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) detained the Supreme Court Justice Kuenlay Tshering (Elephant Bench or Bench 1) and Pemagatshel Dzongkhag Drangpon Yeshey Dorji, following the earlier detention of the former Royal Body Guard (RBG) Commandant Brigadier Thinley Tobgay, in a criminal conspiracy case.
It was initially and popularly assumed that they had been detained based on the statement of a woman named Khandu Wangmo, and speculation was rife. There was not much information coming then, as all official sources, had clammed up, given the sensitivity of the case.
However, The Bhutanese did a series of in depth stories, and found her to be the main mastermind in the criminal conspiracy case, and also the only accused in the sedition case.
Given her central role in both the criminal conspiracy and sedition cases, the story soon focused on her various actions, in addition to her collaborators high and low, all of whom were under the impression she was close to a higher official, and was acting on the official’s instructions.
The Khandu Wangmo story has three aspects to it; first being the criminal conspiracy case, second is the sedition case against her, and the third aspect is the RBP link.
In the criminal conspiracy case, the main target was Chief Operations Officer (COO) of the Royal Bhutan Army, Goonglen Gongma Batoo Tshering against whom Khandu Wangmo had held a grudge. She used Brigadier Thinley Tobgay and Justice Kuenlay Tshering, while Drangpon Yeshey Dorji, who was briefly married to her, was in the know.
She wanted to frame the COO in the UN vehicles procurement deal for corruption, and used the RBG Commandant to get the documents, and used the SC Justice to edit and frame charges on the complaint letter to the ACC. However, ACC reviewed and dropped the case.
The Brigadier was assured he would become the next COO while the SC Justice was told he would become the next Chief Justice.
She got the Brigadier to give her Nu 6 million (mn) in funds from the RBG coffers, using her influence, along with his side arm, a uniform and his second duty Prado vehicle. To pay the money back, she convinced her husband Drangpon Yeshey Dorji to take a controversial RICBL loan of Nu 8 mn.
She also used the Justice to avoid paying a USD 12,000 loan she had taken from a foreigner in London.
In collusion with the Brigadier, she harassed and threatened Colonel Karma Lodey Samphel, of RBA, who was her ex-boyfriend.
All of the accused have been convicted by the District Court on various charges from mutiny to deception.
Khandu Wangmo got 9 years, the RBG Brigadier Thinley Tobgay got 10 years, the SC Justice Kuenlay Tshering got 5 years and Drangpon Yeshey Dorji got 5 years.
Except for Brigadier Thinley Tobgay, the others appealed to the High Court, but their appeal was denied.
Even prior to the Criminal Conspiracy case, Khandu Wangmo was already under investigation by the RBP for a sedition case.
The sedition case is linked to the criminal conspiracy case, as it started when she had a bitter divorce with Pemagatshel Drangpon Yeshey Dorji in October 2018, mainly over the Nu 8 mn loan she had convinced him to take, and also other issues.
Here, she mainly used her vast network of junior associates in the RBP and also contacts in the BNCA, and even the OAG to put her sedition plan together.
Under this, she, again using her fictional link to the higher official, convinced them that they were acting in the national interest with an additional allurement of future studies and other benefits.
The main target here was Drangpon Yeshey Dorji, his sister working in the BNCA and the Drangpon’s former wife, by linking them to a seditious but fictional Khen-Rig Namsum group.
She got seditious documents planted in the Drangpon’s home in Changjiji, the sister’s office in BNCA and also in the car of the brother of the ex-wife in Babesa.
She also used a female doctor, who was a former student of hers, to approach the police and let them know about the seditious documents.
Khandu Wangmo also offered her car as a reward to a former ILCS lecturer, if he would commit a hit and run on her ex-husband.
Both the Drangpon and his sister found the documents and reported the matter to RBP, who were already keeping a close eye on Khandu Wangmo, after her doctor associate crumbled under a simple cross examination by RBP and let out the whole sedition story.
The Drangpon went one step further and spilled the entire beans on the Criminal Conspiracy case. This was when the RBP started a separate investigation on the Criminal Conspiracy case.
Khandu Wangmo tried to enlist the help of two freelance journalists to either write about the documents or to reach it to certain authorities but they did not fall for her tricks.
All the people who she used or tried to use in her sedition case turned witness against her and the District Court sentenced her to five years, which was increased to 21 years by the High Court.
With regard to her RBP link, Deputy Chief of Police (DCOP), Colonel Dorji Wangchuk, who looked after Crime and Operations in the RBP was terminated from service towards the end of May 2021, on the recommendation of an RBP Enquiry Committee to the Police Service Board.
Though there were no legal charges against the DCOP, this case was also linked to the criminal conspiracy case.
Khandu Wangmo used to harass the RBA Colonel Karma Lodey Samphel by using a former RBA Captain to make anonymous threat calls to the Colonel. The former RBA Captain was caught by RBP and confessed to making threat calls to him on the behest of Khandu Wangmo. The Colonel recorded the confession of the former Captain on his phone.
It was then that Khandu Wangmo contacted the DCOP for Crime and Operations, Colonel Dorji Wangchuk, and asked for his help to delete the confessions recorded on the Colonel’s phone. The DCOP got in touch with the RBA Colonel and asked him to delete the confession, which he did.
The main takeaway from the story was how even the highest officials could be fooled by Khandu Wangmo, who wove a web of fictional ties to a higher official, and also combined it with the greed of career and personal enhancement.