After almost a year of investigation and waiting, the Director General (DG) of the labour and human resource ministry, Sherab Tenzin is charged for four offences under two different overseas employment programme in Japan and India.
The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) yesterday filed the case in the Thimphu dzongkhag court.
Charges related to Bhutan Overseas Employment (BEO)
Sherab Tenzin is charged for abuse of functions related to the overseas employment, Learn and Earn Programme. The same offence has also been filed against the ministry’s assistant programme officer, Ugyen Tashi.
The DG and the assistant programme officer had processed and issued certificate of registration (after the Secretary had signed) to Jurmey Tshewang, one of the owners of BEO, without the pre-requisite documents required under Section 2.1 of the Regulation on Employment of Bhutanese Overseas 2013.
This had enabled Jurmey Tshewang to obtain trade license to establish and operate BEO.
Both the DG and assistant programme officer were charged for the offence as per the Section 59(1) of the Anti-Corruption Act, which is liable for misdemeanor and sentence ranging from one to three years.
The Anti-Corruption Commission’s (ACC) implicated both Sherab Tenzin and Ugyen Tashi in the overseas employment programme in Japan for engaging in unethical practices that are construed as corruption in accordance with Anti-Corruption Act 2011.
The ACC report was forwarded to the OAG for probable prosecution last December.
The ACC had called for cancellation of trade license of BEO. The report also found that, although registered in the name of Jurmey Tshewang, BEO was operated in partnership with Tenzin Ridgen, officially represented as a consultant of BEO.
On November 24, ACC found that a registration certificate signed by the labour secretary was issued to BEO. The same day, Sherab Tenzin had sent a recommendation letter to the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MoEA) to issue trade license to Jurmey Tshewang. On November 30, the MoEA issued the license to BEO as recommended by the MoLHR.
“It is evident that Sherab Tenzin and Ugyen Tashi had failed to strictly implement the Regulation on Bhutanese Overseas Employment Agent, 2013, which led to illegal issuance of license to BEO, ultimately benefitting Jurmey Tshewang and Tenzin Rigden,” the report stated.
Charges related to programme in India
The OAG has charged the DG on the count of offence of deceptive practice as per Section 309(g) of the Penal Code of Bhutan and is liable for petty misdemeanor.
Sherab Tenzin despite knowing that Manav Dhingra, head of operations for International Institute of Hospitality and Wellness Studies (IIWS) was an investment partner in the M/S Jana Tissues, had concealed the fact and obtained trade license in the name of his son.
Manav had invested Nu 639,000 for M/S Jana Tissues business, registered in the name of Sherab Tenzin’s son, Kezang Nendag.
Sherab Tenzin was also booked for official misconduct as per Section 316A(a) of Penal Code and liable for misdemeanor. OAG stated that although the DG was an “informed public servant,” he solicited Manav to be a secret investor in his son’s business.
The charges stated that Manav was not only a foreign national, but also a contractor in training and placing Bhutanese youth in India under direct supervision of the labour ministry.
The DG is also booked for the offence of conflict of interest. The DG despite knowing that Manav was investment partner in his son’s business, had failed to declare his conflict of interest and sat as one of the Tender Committee members.
Manav had participated in a tender floated by the labour ministry in June 2016 and was one of the winners at the bids.
Failing to declare the conflict of interest, the DG is charged for the offence as per the Section 63(1) of the ACC Act and would be liable for misdemeanor.
ACC’s investigation on this issue found that the DG solicited and accepted a favour from Manav Dhingra to set up a tissue paper business. The investigation later confirmed that Kezang Nendag was the registered owner of M/s Jana Tissues. It was revealed that Manav Dhingra had helped the DG to purchase as well as transport machines and materials to Thimphu.
The investigation also established that DG not only sought financial assistance from a foreign source, but also engaged in a conduct that was in conflict with his public position as the DG of department of employment and human resources.
Meanwhile, the OAG has also charged Kezang Nendag for the offence of deceptive practice. Despite knowing that Manav was a foreign national and solicited by his father to invest in his business, Kezang Nendag deceptively owned the business in his name.
The OAG has also submitted to the court for restitution asking all the illegal investments made by the parties in the joint business and income generated from it.
Yangchen C Rinzin