The High Court’s (HC) bench I reversed the military court’s judgment and acquitted Lieutenant Lt Ugyen Dorji and a non-commissioned officer (NCO) Tashi Phuntsho of the Royal Bhutan Army (RBA).
The military court sentenced Lt Ugyen Dorji to two years and eight months in prison for embezzling Nu 478,595 and NCO Tashi Phuntsho to five months in prison for embezzling Nu 35,000 in December last year.
The two served as administrative officer and administration assistant during the 16th batch Desuung training programme from August 1 to September 6, 2016.
The HC ruled that Lt Ugyen Dorji was acquitted since he adjusted the amounts to conduct the desuung programme and did not embezzle the amount.
The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) alleged Lt Ugyen Dorji of embezzling Nu 288,824 from grocery items paid to GD Tshongkhang, Nu 32,071 from vegetable, eggs and fruits of Leki Tshongkhang and Nu 64,895 from Karna Bahadur while procuring meat and fish.
Lt Ugyen Dorji appealed to the HC on December 22 last year, reasoning that the prosecutors and the military court convicted him of embezzling the TDS he deducted from the shopkeepers and paid to the Department of Revenue and Customs and the amount he returned from the leftover rations.
His appeal letter also stated that he adjusted the fund to award cash prizes and procure restricted items and alcohol.
RBA prosecutor contended that the vendors have given a statement to the ACC on the amount they received from the officer and had even verified the bills and receipts.
He also submitted to the HC that the vendors and the officer colluded during the trial at the military court and the vendors have retracted their statement to the ACC. “Lt Ugyen Dorji had only submitted handwritten records of the adjustment to the lower court, which were not verified and endorsed by the RBA headquarters.”
The HC stated that a thorough review of the case revealed that the amount ACC reflected as paid by the defendant to JD Tshongkhag, Leki Tshongkhag and Paro Meat Shop was not during the 16th batch desuung program but during the desuung refresher’s course.
Lt Ugyen Dorji submitted a list of the adjustments he made during the training programme.
The HC ruled that the defendant had adjusted the amounts based on the orders of the superiors and the wing commandant endorsed the handwritten bills.
It also ruled that the defendant had only adjusted the bills as it was done in all desuung programmes and did not embezzle the money.
The HC also acquitted Peljab Tashi Phuntsho stating that the allegations were not proven beyond reasonable doubt.
Peljab Tashi Phuntsho submitted to the court that his statement to the ACC that he had taken Nu 35,000 from Paro Meat Shop and spent it was given under duress.
The HC also ruled that the court’s review revealed there was no corroborating evidence to prove that the Peljab had taken the money besides the statement.
The HC also dismissed the military court judgment that convicted vendor Thinley Jamtsho to seven months in prison, Pema Choden to four months and Karna Bahadur to three months and acquitted them.