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Former Gelephu drungpa sentenced to 41 years in prison

Sarpang dzongkhag court on July 13 upheld Gelephu drungkhag court’s judgment in the case involving former Gelephu drungpa and sentenced him to 41 years in prison.

However, the dzongkhag court partially altered the sentencing allowing the former drungpa to pay thrimthue in lieu of prison terms for 33 years amounting to Nu 1.485 million (M). The court gave a non-compoundable sentence of eight years.

The court convicted Pema Wangdi of 18 counts of forgery, 18 counts of abuse of function, four counts of embezzlement, one count each of active bribery, perjury, and official misconducted, among others.

Most of the charges surrounded the Losel Cinema in Gelephu. The former drungpa was convicted of perjury, active bribery, official misconduct, 17 counts of forgery, and 17 counts of solicitation, and abuse of function relating to it.

The court ordered him to restitute Nu 6.997M. Of that, the restitution of Nu 6.876M was in relation to the cinema hall.

The main case is the embezzlement of Nu 10.63M from fixed deposit by the drungpa that originally belonged to the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa.

The Gelephu Losel Cinema was owned by the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa. Property manager Dezang Chhoka had deposited INR 2.95 million in April 2004 in his account and INR 2.72M in the joint fixed account he held with another person in an Indian bank in Sikkim. The manager passed away in Gelephu in 2006. Eventually, the management of the cinema hall was given to Gelephu drungkhag. The fixed deposits had reached Nu 10.36M.

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) found that Pema Wangdi had prepared false documents and affidavits to recover the amount.

Of the Nu 10.637M, ACC officials recovered Nu 3.4M from the drungpa’s residence.

Pema Wangdi appealed to the major charges in the repatriation of Losel Cinema’s money from Sikkim, India at the dzongkhag court stated that the documents were forged by the administrative assistant Sonam Norbu.

The drungpa had not surrendered the money to the government after withdrawing from the State Bank of India in April 2013. The dzongkhag court’s judgment stated that the fact that he had kept the money and used for his personal purposes and also approved the forged documents, Pema Wangdi was also guilty of forgery, not his administrative assistant Sonam Norbu, who actually forged the documents.

Other cases against him included one count of forgery and 12 counts of abuse of function in the maintenance of Losel cinema hall, abuse of function in maintenance of cremation ground at Serzhong in Gelephu, forgery and abuse of function in construction of wall at India-Bhutan border in Gelephu, forging of accounts, embezzlement and abuse of function charges in the Tokay Gecko case and hot spring maintenance in Serzhong gewog.

As the offences were misdemeanor and since the former Gelephu drungpa Pema Wangdi did not have criminal record, the court allowed him to pay in lieu of imprisonment for 33 years.

The court convicted the former drungkhag administrative assistant Sonam Norbu and sentenced him to three years of non-compoundable prison term. The Gelephu court gave him a concurrent prison term of 19 years in prison, of which eight years was non-compoundable term, for seven counts of embezzlement, forgery, passive bribery, and aiding and abetting.

The former drungpa’s son, Tobgay Dradul, was given a reduced sentence of one year and six months’ compoundable sentence for forgery and deceptive practice.

Tshering Palden

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