Nim Dorji and Tashi Dema
Trongsa dzongkhag court yesterday convicted the former Trongsa dzongdag, Lhab Dorji to 13 years in prison in connection to an illegal land acquisition case, but was given a concurrent sentencing of five years prison term.
He was found guilty of four counts of forgery, three counts of official misconduct and execution of document by deception.
The former dzongdag’s wife, Karma Tshetim Dolma, and the former Drakteng gup, Tenzin, were sentenced to 15 years in prison for fabricating sale deeds, submitting false reports to the courts for transfer of land ownership and for deceptive practices. They were, however, given a concurrent sentencing of six years prison term.
Karma Tshetim Dolma was found guilty of four counts of forgery, three counts of solicitation to commit official misconduct and for offence related to witness.
Former Drakteng gup Tenzin was convicted for forging the thumbprint of the land seller and the witness. He was also found guilty of five counts of forgery related to the sale deed and three counts of deceptive practice.
The Court stated that the defendants were given concurrent sentence because there was negligence on the part of the government officials, in particular, the Land Record Officer of the then Department of Land and Survey Records who failed to delete the land from the Kapa thr am of Yangchen and Sonam Choden when they received land replacement from the government in Gelephu.
It stated that defendant Karma Tshetim Dolma allegedly purchased the lands already acquired by government for Taktse but not deleted from the thram. This contributory negligence on the part of the government official is a mitigating circumstance for the defendants.
It also stated that ACC failed to charge Neten despite his negligence and Sonam Choden who had helped Karma Tshetim Dolma in the fraudulent land transactions. “ACC officials violated Section 107 of Anti-Corruption Act by failing to advertise the Notice of Seizure in two media houses as required by Section 107.”
A retired drangpon, Ugyen Tenzin, was sentenced to a year and six months in prison for forgery.
Former Nubi gup Phuntsho was sentenced to three years in prison for two counts of forgery. He was given a concurrent sentencing of a year and six months in prison.
The court also sentenced former surveyor, Narayan Dangal, to two years and six months in prison for guilty of aiding and abetting the dzongdag and official misconduct, but he was given a year and six months in prison because ACC did not file charges against two other individuals involved.
Another surveyor, Kelzang Nima, was sentenced to a year in prison. He was found guilty of official misconduct, as he knowingly surveyed 1.93 acres of land and falsely recorded it as genuine plot despite knowing that defendant Karma Tshetim Dolma was not eligible for GY plot.
Of the seven people convicted, only surveyor Kelzang Nima could pay thrimthue in lieu of prison term.
Meanwhile, the court acquitted former Nubi gup Tashi Penden and two former tshogpas, Wangchukla and Kinley, who were charged for official misconduct.
During the trial, they submitted evidence against other defendants and requested the Court to consider them as ‘approver’ and pardon them according to section 66 of the Penal Code of Bhutan.
As submitted by ACC, the Court ordered that the 4.73 acres of land at Thumang registered in Karma Tshetim Dolma’s name to be restituted to the government.
The Court directed ACC to approach the government in consultation with National Land Commission to discuss if the government would be interested to acquire the resort at View Point at the rate to be finalised by the relevant agencies of the government. “If the government is not interested to acquire it, defendant Karma Tshetim Dolma should demolish it.”
The court prepared a 3,767-page judgment in the land case between the ACC and the 10 defendants.
The case surfaced in 2011 after a landowner, Gyalmo, complained to the ACC that she did not sell her land to Karma Tshetim Dolma.
Gyalmo filed a case against Karma Tshetim Dolma with the Trongsa court in 2011 but was dismissed, stating that the same court adjudicated the matter before.