Thimphu District Court where the cases will be tried

The story behind the criminal conspiracy

The Bhutanese, over the week, was contacted by a source with information on the case pertaining to the detention of the Supreme Court Judge Kuenlay Tshering, Pemagatshel Drangpon Yeshey Dorji, RBG Commandant Brigadier Thinley Tobgye and Khandu Wangmo also known as Bumden Khandu Wangmo.

The source, who is an ordinary citizen, is connected to the current criminal conspiracy case and knows Khandu Wangmo’s role in it well.

The source is also connected to a separate sedition case filed against Khandu Wangmo in 2020 when she was caught red-handed with some seditious documents.  The source had certain pictures and online documents to prove the link of the source to the cases.

The paper cross checked the information of the source with another source also involved in both the cases and an additional important and reliable source, and also the OAG charge sheet information in the public domain and it all tallied together.

The paper also collected information from all three sources in addition to the paper’s own research.

According to all three sources a key role in the whole affair was played by Khandu Wangmo or Bumden Khandu Wangmo. 

A source who corrected the information on the number of charges said that Khandu Wangmo actually faced the maximum number of charges at 11 as the main mastermind behind the whole criminal conspiracy while Brigadier Thinley Tobgye faced seven charges, Judge Kuenlay Tshering faced three charges and Pemagatshel Drangpon Yeshey Dorji faced only two charges.

Khandu Wangmo

The first public profile of Khandu Wangmo was in an article she penned for a local newspaper highlighting her Desuup training experience in October 2015 for executives (2-week course) when she worked on contract with the Indian Embassy.

The article is diplomatic, sophisticated and written with a flair and she names several senior officials mostly in the armed forces thanking them for how well the training was conducted.

According to one of the sources, Khandu Wangmo moved around in high circles given her job in the embassy and while doing so she befriended or came into touch with senior Bhutanese officials. An official from the Indian Embassy said that she worked there from 2012-13 to 2016 when she left and she was in a relatively junior position.

Among the people she met were the three key individuals- Supreme Court Judge Kuenlay Tshering, Pemagatshel Drangpon Yeshey Dorji, RBG Commandant Brigadier Thinley Tobgye who are all now detained as part of the criminal conspiracy and other charges.

According to another source she got close to this group of friends or mutual acquaintances. She even married one of them in Pemagatshel Drangpon Yeshey Dorji while continuing to maintain close and friendly ties with the other two.

Two of the sources said that a reason why her new influential friends were so drawn to her was that apart from personal charm and confidence she gave them a concocted but convincing impression that she is very close to higher authorities in Bhutan.

One familiar technique reported by many who came in touch with her was that she would first show a picture taken with the higher authority followed by dropping the names of the higher authority to indicate closeness. Then later suddenly in the middle of a conversation she would pretend to get a call from the authority and again claim the higher authority was calling her.

However, the call was never from the higher authority, but from a family member who had been asked in advance to call at that point of time. 

This little skit was executed with such perfection that many fell for it, including the well educated and powerful.

A key source said that for all their intelligence and experience the three senior officials fell for the feigned impression that she was well connected and she could help all of them in their own respective career ambitions and other aims.

This key source said that she got these men to do her bidding by fabricating and giving fake orders making it appear like it had come from a higher authority. 

The start of the criminal conspiracy

According to the key source it all started many years ago when Khandu Wangmo allegedly approached the Chief Operations Officer Lt Gen Batoo Tshering  with some personal issues for which the COO refused help. However, whatever the exact reason, Khandu Wangmo allegedly nursed a personal grudge against the COO for many years.

This personal grudge issue was confirmed by two sources one of whom said she did not have anything nice to say about the COO on the personal front.

Then in 2015 when Khandu Wangmo was working in the Embassy she had accompanied the then Indian Ambassador on an official visit to Tencholing where she is supposed to have met the Brigadier.

The source said the two got to know each other from there and it is from 2015 when the beginnings of the conspiracy first started.

As per the source all three who are Supreme Court Judge Kuenlay Tshering, Pemagatshel Drangpon Yeshey Dorji, RBG Commandant Brigadier Thinley Tobgye have testified saying that Khandu Wangmo misled them into thinking that she was conveying orders from  a higher authority.

However, it is not just these three alleging the same tactic. The source connected to the separate sedition case against Khandu Wangmo also said that she used the same tactic of pretending to convey orders on behalf of the higher authority or being close to the higher authority.

According to the testimonies Khandu Wangmo fraudulently convinced Thinley Tobgye that she had higher backing and talked to him  about getting incriminating documents of any kind on the COO. She also let it slip that this action would be seen favorably by the higher authority and so he would stand a good chance to be the next COO.

It is also alleged that in the same vein she also got the Brigadier to give her Nu 6 million in funds from the RBG coffers by portraying that an order to that effect had come from the higher authority. Khandu said that as per the order money would be given back.

It is alleged that after getting the documents on UN vehicles purchased by the RBA, Khandu asked the Brigadier to tell their mutual acquaintance or friend the senior most Supreme Court Judge Kuenlay Tshering that there is an order from the higher authority to review the documents, frame legal charges and send it to the ACC as a complaint.

Khandu Wangmo is alleged to have conveyed to Judge Kuenlay Tshering to whom she was close as well that if he did this task the higher authority would appreciate it and this would strengthen his chance to become the next Chief Justice after the then Chief Justice retired.

The complaint letter and documents was sent anonymously to the ACC a few years ago.

When The Bhutanese enquired with the ACC on this complaint the ACC said they had processed the complaint or allegation in line with its established systems and procedures. Accordingly, ACC did not find the merit of pursuing the case further and so it was closed.

A source said the vehicles had been purchased in an open tender and the lowest qualified bidder had won the bid. The angle that the letter had tried to use is that Tata company dealership in Bhutan that won the bid belonged to the nephew of the COO, but there was no evidence found to support any foul play in the tender.

Khandu, in the meantime, had married the Pemagatshel Drangpon who was also friends with Judge Kuenlay and the Brigadier. The Drangpon was aware of the conspiracy but did not verify or report it to anyone at the time.

Things started souring between the four of them when the Brigadier started asking Khandu for the funds back as promised.

The Brigadier in the meantime had even given his own side arm to her and allowed his second duty vehicle to be on her duty.

Khandu’s husband, who is the Pemagatshel Drangpon, also claimed that she then told him that she had another order from the higher authority to take a loan and pay back the funds to the Brigadier and that fund would be reimbursed to the Drangpon in time.

The Drangpon then mortgaged his parents land in Gelephu and submitted some fictional documents of shops to get the Nu 8 mn loan from RICBL. She then refunded the amount back to the Brigadier with an additional amount that the Brigadier is accused of keeping for himself.

Prior to this back in 2015 when Judge Kuenlay Tshering was a panelist in a panel for an Oxford scholarship in the UK he had claimed that he received an SMS from an unknown number pretending to be a high official directing him to favour Khandu. He, without verifying, gave her higher marks to ensure she got the scholarship.

In England, Khandu had allegedly borrowed a high amount from a local there and came back without repaying it. It is alleged that when the case was taken up here Judge Kuenlay had not allowed for her prosecution.

The plot starts coming apart

As time dragged on and the Pemagatshel Drangpon realized he would not be getting his money back and there were other issues in the marriage, he and Khandu divorced. The Drangpon then filed a civil case in court to recover the money from her.

By then the Pemagatshel Drangpon’s friend in Judge Kuenlay Tshering also realized something was not right and he also withdrew from her.

A source claimed that the civil financial case filed against her by the ex-husband infuriated her and she also worried that she may lose the case if Kuenlay Tshering becomes the next Chief Justice given the friendship between the two Drangpons.

Judge Kuenlay was a strong candidate to become the next Chief Justice given that he was the senior most judge in the Supreme Court.

Curiously and coincidentally around this time multiple anonymous accounts popped up on Facebook forums making various allegations against Judge Kuenlay Tshering with his picture saying that he is unfit to be the next Chief Justice. One of these fake accounts in September 2019 named ‘Terda Duuji’ even said that Kuenlay Tshering was a mastermind in writing an anonymous letter on the army chief General Batoo defaming him. It said the accomplice is Drangpon Yeshey Dorji. It said a can of worms will be spilt if the police do an enquiry.

This was information at the time known to a very small group of people.

A separate sedition case

Two of the sources said that Khandu Wangmo moved against her ex-husband the Drangpon by writing a seditious pamphlet claimed to be signed by the group name of ‘Khenrig Namsum’ and it was quietly spread around in various public places.

This was done to implicate her ex-husband who is originally from Zhemgang. It used the angle that Zhemgang is being left behind on the development front and used that as a basis to make highly seditious remarks.

She then contacted people in the intelligence unit of the RBP and the also ACC officials to misinform them that it was her husband behind the pamphlet.

She had tried to rope in some individuals to help her in the seditious pamphlet case to frame the Drangpon.

She even coached one of them to be an eye witness against the Drangpon and sent the planted eye witness to the RBP to complain against him.

However, her plan worked against her when one of these people figured out what was going on and reported her to the RBP and the supposed eyewitness against the Drangpon folded under a simple cross examination by the RBP wherein she later confessed to being coached by Khandu to implicate the Drangpon in a sedition case.

The RBP, however, continued to act ignorant and started monitoring her as she tried various means to convince them to arrest her ex-husband for sedition along with his sister and family members.

Criminal conspiracy comes to light

Meanwhile, the Drangpon after winning his civil financial suit against his ex-wife approached the RBP in 2020 to file an official complaint against her for criminal conspiracy and pretending to pass orders on behalf of the higher authority.

This was when the RBP realized that there was not only sedition case afoot but a separate criminal conspiracy had been going on since 2015.

The RBP based on the 2020 complaint of the Drangpon launched a separate criminal conspiracy investigation where the roles of not only Khandu Wangmo but also Judge Kuenlay, the Brigadier and the Drangpon himself came to light.

By now the RBP was already familiar with Khandu Wangmo with the sedition case and it moved quickly on this new case also involving her.

A source said that it is not correct that Khandu Wangmo is the initial source of the information of the criminal conspiracy but it was Drangpon Yeshey Dorji who brought it to the RBP’s notice in the formal written complaint.

The RBP as part of its sedition case detained Khandu Wangmo in 2020 and this detention was also used to question her about the criminal conspiracy case.

She denied her role in both the cases and claimed that she was only a simple housewife and she questioned how she could influence the three. Despite questioning by the RBP she has not admitted her guilt or her role throughout and has either maintained a stony silence or put up denials.

However, the RBP by then had managed to collect a trove of evidence against her in the sedition case with around 8 witnesses ready to testify against her (who she had attempted to rope in) as well as the seditious pamphlets which were found in her possession instead of the Drangpon. There are also other evidences.

A couple of the sedition case witnesses are also aware about Khandu’s role in the criminal conspiracy case though it is not yet clear if they will be used in court as witnesses in the criminal conspiracy case.

The RBP’s investigation on the criminal conspiracy found that Khandu Wangmo was the main instigator in the criminal conspiracy case which is why she faces the maximum of 11 charges.

This is followed by the Brigadier who faces a total of seven charges for his role in getting the documents, giving her the money and other things. One of the charges apart from criminal conspiracy is mutiny against the COO.

Judge Kuenlay has three charges of which one is abetment in the criminal conspiracy and others are nepotism for favoring her in the scholarship and also preventing her prosecution.

The Pemagatshel Drangpon who reported the whole criminal conspiracy to the police also stands charged with abetment in the criminal conspiracy since he knew since 2015 but did not verify or report it to anybody till 2020 and another charge for faking shop documents for the RICBL loan.

The separate sedition case focused on Khandu Wangmo was filed last year to the court after which the police filed the criminal conspiracy case recently involving the four accused.

Suspension of a senior RBP officer

In the meantime, a senior RBP officer who is known to Khandu Wangmo is suspended. This is however, not linked to the sedition case or the criminal conspiracy case but is a separate case.

A source said that a senior RBA officer who was known to Khandu Wangmo and had some dispute with her in the past was constantly getting harassed by an unknown private number issuing various threat calls. The senior RBA officer had reported the matter to the RBP who tracked the number to a young ex-soldier who while in the police station confessed that he had done the task on the instruction of Khandu Wangmo.

The RBA officer had quietly recorded the verbal confession on his phone. However, when Khandu knew about it she contacted this senior RBP official who called the senior RBA officer and made him delete that confession.

This senior RBP officer has been suspended for destruction of evidence on Khandu Wangmo’s request.

An eyewitness who has been to Khandu Wangmo’s house had noted a strange practice where she would ask any person coming there to switch off his or her phone and leave it in a basket outside.

The same eye witness saw Khandu Wangmo having eight to nine different phones on her but the RBP could not recover them when she was arrested.

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