An investigation by this paper has found that 17 Indian lottery companies have been falsely representing themselves as official ‘Bhutan Lottery’ agents of the Bhutan government from 2011 onwards.
As a result they have been making billions in revenue selling unauthorized ‘Bhutan Lottery’ tickets in the name of Bhutan. The lottery ticket buyers and, it seems even the lottery authorities in India are assuming that these tickets are authorized by the Bhutan government.
Given that Bhutan is on the verge of restarting the original ‘Bhutan Lottery’ it is in our nation’s financial interest to immediately take up the issue with both the Indian government in Delhi and also the Indian state level governments.
At the same time, there are not only financial issues at stake as millions of lottery buyers in India are assuming that the tickets are backed by the Bhutan government. There is also a potential political problem as the Bhutan government is likely to be blamed by the lottery buying masses in India if they get cheated by these companies. This will affect the image of the country.
Some lottery companies have even given the address of the Finance Ministry in Thimphu with a picture of the Dzong in their websites to try and show legitimacy. This also raises the issue of defrauding both the Bhutan government and lottery ticket buyers in India.
In the past there were several problems and issues with the original Bhutan Lottery whereby Bhutan was losing billions in potential revenue. The then government instead of cleaning it up, fixing legal accountability and improving it to earn more revenue hastily closed the whole thing down in August 2011 without any investigation. There was also no cooperation extended to the CBI investigation in India.
The then unwillingness to investigate, lack of due diligence in closing ‘Bhutan Lottery,’ and lack of subsequent monitoring has allowed some Indian lottery companies to step in between to make billions in the name of Bhutan.
The Anti Corruption Commission must also be faulted with not carrying out investigations on its own at the time.
The government of the day which had plans to restart the Bhutan Lottery should also have done better research in uncovering this earlier.
It is high time that this government learns from the mistakes of the past and does everything in its power and capability to stop this blatant financial fraud being committed in the country’s name.
The government should not only stick to diplomatic talks with the Indian government and state governments but also actively explore legal options in Indian courts.
It is heartening to note that the Finance Ministry has promised both of the above but actions ultimately will matter more than words.
Bhutan maybe a small country, but we are no banana republic and we hold the nation’s honour and interests to be supreme. It is high time for decisive action.
“Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action. ”