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Lapon denies embezzlement, admits tampering with witnesses

LHAKHANG KARPO: Of the two charges the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) framed against the site supervisor (lapon) of the Lhakhang Karpo conservation project, Lhab Dorji denied embezzling Nu 126,305 for 19 labourers.

Rebutting the charges, lapon Lhab Dorji submitted at the Haa district court that he issued receipts for the money collected and accounted for the same. “It’s not fair that someone, who hasn’t committed any offence, is charged for embezzlement,” Lhab Dorji said.

The OAG indicted him for embezzling the amount by reflecting names in the muster roll without engagement in the project work.  OAG’s prosecutor submitted that Lhab Dorji, who had been responsible for reconciliations of woola (labour contribution), and issuing the woola receipts, collected Nu 3,000 each in cash from 30 households in lieu of labour contributions.

The prosecutor said the people of Haa requested the lapon to depute a labourer on their behalf for the cash paid.  The OAG representative also challenged Lhab Dorji’s denial of misusing the woola money, and said he had admitted to the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) investigation team of receiving cash from 30 households, but accounted only for 11 people.

Lhab Dorji, however, could not account for the persons deputed on behalf of 19 households, who were reflected in the muster rolls and wages collected using thumbprints, according to prosecutor.  He also admitted to bear the accountability for not being able to account when the ACC interrogated him.

The accused, OAG’s prosecutor said, failed to account for 513-man days of woola, amounting Nu 126,305 collected both from individual households and the muster roll of the project. “Therefore, this constitutes an offence of embezzlement of funds or securities under section 52 [1] (c) of Anti Corruption Act, 2011,” the prosecutor rebutted.

Lhab Dorji submitted that he has evidences of deputing people on behalf of 19 households.  The case would be withdrawn if he can produce those people before the court.

Lhab Dorji, however, accepted the second charge, an offence relating to tampering with witnesses to testify in an untruthful manner.

Prosecutors said that ACC had established that Choden, a woman from Bangina, a neighbour to Lhab Dorji, was mentored to admit before the investigation team that she had represented woola for three households, Kagey Zam, Lhab Tshering and Thinley Jamtsho,

Lhab Dorji also admitted that he had mentored his wife to falsely admit the representation of woola for Penjor.  His wife, in her earlier statement to ACC, had stated that she contributed woola for Penjor, which later was established as false.

Prior to Lhakhang Karpo, Lhab Dorji supervised the renovation project of Punakha dzong for seven years, and another six years for Chukha dzong construction.

The OAG will rebut Lhab Dorji’s statement on March 17.

By Rinzin Wangchuk

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