The picture of the excavator in the river taken from a distance

Vehicles bought as scrap insured for high amounts and allegedly pushed off cliffs to claim millions in accident insurance

On the 5th of October 2021 an Ashok Leyland truck BP-2-B0761 transporting a Liugong 922D Crawler Excavator BP-1-A0349, both insured with Bhutan Insurance Limited (BIL), met with an accident at Lungsegang, Tsirang. The vehicles were registered in the name of Mr. Leki who is a former monk.

An insurance claim was filed with BIL for the two vehicles and BIL paid Nu 8.76 million (mn) as claims for the truck and excavator as a total loss. The two vehicles were to be auctioned as scrap vehicles and interestingly the same Leki attempted to take part in the auction.

The BIL did not allow Leki to take part in the auction as there were many instances where he was given opportunity by BIL to retain scrap vehicles.

BIL also suspected fraud but could not deny the claim due to lack of evidence and so made the payments.

Instead a Lam Kinzang Wangdi a close associate of Leki took part in the auction on behalf of Leki and bought the truck and Excavator as scrap for Nu 385,000 with Nu 105,000 for the truck and Nu 280,000 for the Excavator on 5 January, 2022.

The truck was handed over to Leki while the same excavator was ‘sold’ by Lam Kinzang to Leki’s wife Dechen Choden at Nu 6.5 mn on 6 January 2022.

Insured with RICBL

Within 7 days the same truck that was bought as scrap at Nu 105,000 was insured with RICBL on 13 January 2022 for Nu 2.59 mn.

Similarly, the same excavator bought at a scrap value of Nu 280,000 was insured with RICBL for Nu 6.67 mn.

According to a source in the RICBL the vehicle owner had fooled the insurance officer by showing a RSTA roadworthiness blue book which should not have been issued without verifying the vehicles, and photos of the vehicle without actually showing the actual vehicle. 

Then three months after the insurance the same Ashok Leyland truck BP-2-B0761 met with an accident again at the dam site, Bjabcho, Watsa, Chukha on 14th of April 2022. The cause of the accident was keeping the vehicle unattended and the driver was unhurt.

An insurance claim was filed by Leki and after verification the vehicle was settled as a total loss case and RICBL paid Nu 2.45 mn.

Then on 1st June Leki’s wife Dechen Choden filed an insurance claim for the same excavator after it was supposed to have met with an accident while being transported by a trailer approximately 300 meters near the Chukha dam, Bjabcho, Chhukha sustaining major damages to both the vehicles.

The probable cause of an accident as per the police report is not having proper control over the vehicle. The driver here too was unhurt. 

The insurance team estimated the claim to be worth Nu 5.11 mn on a total loss basis with a salvage value of only Nu 128,000. RICBL found that the same excavator had earlier been insured with BIL and so a 10 percent deduction was applied as applicable in such cases with the claim amount now being Nu 4.47 mn.

The claim for the Ashok Leyland trailer bearing registration no: BP-4-A0628 which was carrying the excavator was filed by Leki’s brother Phub Thinley. Here too it was a total loss with salvage value of only Nu 66,000.

The claim value was Nu 2.56 mn.

RICBL gets suspicious

However, the amounts for the excavator and the trailer were not released by the RICBL after it got suspicious that the accidents above took place in the same vicinity and the drivers escaped unharmed.

It was also found that two of the vehicles had been insured with BIL where full claims were made after total loss accidents.

The RICBL started doing its own investigation, and when it talked to the claimants with some probing questions they got nervous and even left the office.

Doubt was converted into certainty when one of the drivers came forward to RICBL to confess that the vehicles were deliberately taken to the location and pushed over to claim insurance.

The driver himself had a fight with his wife who had threatened to take the matter to the police and so he decided it is better to confess to RICBL.

The RICBL took him to ACC where he repeated the same.

The RICBL noted that in total there were six vehicle accident insurance claims made by Leki, his wife Dechen, brother Phub and Lam Kinzang of which four claims which were for Ashok Leyland trucks had already been paid by RICBL.

Nu 8.79 mn had already been paid as insurance claims by RICBL for the four accidents to Leki in the case of two trucks of (Nu 2.45 mn and Nu 2.22 mn), his wife Dechen (in one case of Nu 1.71 mn) and Leki’s associate Lam Kinzang (in one case of Nu 2.38 mn.)

Nu 7.07 mn is pending for the remaining two cases of the truck and excavator.

It was found that four drivers, Sangay Tenzin, Gembo, Nima and Namgay Dorji were involved in the six accidents and none of them had been injured.

Nima was involved in two past accident claims while driving an Ashok Leyland Tipper belonging to Dechen Choden to Chamgang, Thimphu on 7 May 2021 and while driving an Ashok Leyland 2518 truck belonging to Lam Kinzang Wangdi in Naja, Paro on 21 September 2021 and he was unhurt in both cases even though the trucks were complete loss cases.

All the six vehicles involved in the accidents did not have loans on them.

All the policies had been underwritten by Palden Dorji of the Babesa Branch Office but he had resigned and is in Australia. The policy had been underwritten based on the report submitted by Mr. Jambay Dorji, Sales Executive. The policy documents were verified and were found to be incomplete.

It was found that that the Babesa Branch Office had underwritten the salvages of the Ashok Leyland 2518 truck BP-2-B0761 just 13 days after the BIL auction and Liugong 922D Crawler Excavator BP-1-A0349 six days after the BIL auction.

The RICBL reasoned that it is not possible to repair both the total loss vehicles within such a short span of time and make them road worthy.

It was also found that of the six accidents, three accidents occurred at Watsa, Chapcha, Chukha.  The RICBL is doubtful that the following vehicles met with an accident at the same location.

According to RICBL Lam Kinzang ‘selling’ the scrap excavator he bought for Nu 280,000 from BIL to Dechen for Nu 6.5 mn was done with the aim of deceiving the insurance company.

The RICBL said it is possible that total loss vehicles are purchased from BIL and insured with RICB and vice versa. Accidents on total loss vehicles are deliberate to claim money from the insurers. 

The paper contacted the BIL which is a private insurance company, but its CEO said that there had been some issues in the past and now it is resolved. He declined to share anything beyond that.

On the other hand, RICBL transparently answered all the queries of the paper and also shared its own findings. It was also RICBL which reported the matter to the ACC for investigation.

ACC had detained Leki for a while and has focused on him as the center of all the cases.

The total amount comes to Nu 15.86 mn of which RICBL already paid Nu 8.79 mn in 4 cases and an unpaid Nu 7.07 for the two remaining cases.

This does not include the Nu 8.76 mn that BIL had already paid for the truck and excavator earlier to Leki.

The above may also just be the tip of the iceberg if new findings come to light on past cases with BIL and RICBL.

Leki and family respond

Leki who is currently in Bumthang admitted that he had gotten paid insurance claims from BIL for the truck and excavator and that he had tried to participate in buying the scrap and was prevented from doing so and instead Lam Kinzang bought it for him

On insuring the two vehicles with RICBL he said that if the vehicles were just scrap and not repaired then how did RICBL give insurance in the first place. Leki said all the evidence for the trucks had been shown to RICBL before insurance, including the video of the vehicles. He said the police investigation at the site also showed the accident.

His elder brother Phub Thinley said that earlier the scrap vehicles put in auction was mostly bought by Indians but from 2019 onwards they bought 40 to 50 trucks and repaired them in India.

He also said that the police and RICBL authorities had seen the accident sites.

A source from the Leki camp said that the only evidence that the ACC has is the testimonies of the drivers and they have no other witnesses. He said that Leki has confessed to nothing with the ACC.

The source said that the ACC has a total of 8 cases aimed at Leki as he was the main owner of the vehicles and the others are mainly his associates.

The 8 cases involved the six vehicles.

He said Leki was out of station at the time and the drivers who committed the accidents have no proof to show any instructions were given to them by Leki. 

The source said that Leki instead has chat history to show that one of the main drivers had grievances with him as Leki had used his money and was not paying back on time. The same person also questioned how RICBL insured the vehicles and pointed out that some of the insurance documents were incomplete.

He expressed confidence that it will be a difficult case for the ACC and OAG to prove in court.

Meanwhile, despite repeated attempts the ACC did not share their investigation findings. The case has been sent to the OAG which also does not talk to the media.

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