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OAG reviews a separate 19kg gold smuggling case

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) is reviewing a separate gold smuggling case involving 11 men and 19 kilogrammes (kg) of gold worth Nu 57 million.

Nine farmers from Paro, Wangduephodrang and Chukha, one businessman from Thimphu and an unemployed man based in Phuentsholing are accused in the case.

Following a tip-off, police in Paro arrested all the 11 men from different places between June 21 and July 22. All the suspects were detained for further investigation.

Police’s investigation established that they played the role of owners, dealers, carriers, planners and robbers.

Of the 11 arrested, Tobgay and Sonam Jamtsho were the owners of 19kg gold, Lam Penjor and Gembo were carriers, and other seven acted as robbers.

 

The plan

In October 2018, Sonam Jamtsho met an Indian man called Singh in Jaigoan. They decided to smuggle gold from Bhutan-Tibet border. Singh promised Sonam Jamtsho a carrying charge of Nu 20,000 a kg of gold.

After a month, Sonam Jamtsho met Tobgay, discussed the business and agreed to pay him Nu 15,000 as carrying charges. Tobgay then discussed the plan with his brother-in-law, Gembo who also agreed to the plan.

In November, Sonam Jamtsho contacted Tobgay to go to the northern border and collect 19kg of gold from a Tibetan. Since Tobgay was engaged with some work, he asked Gembo and his younger brother Lam Penjor to bring in from the border. Tobgay and Gembo agreed to divide the carrying charges equally and pay Nu 40,000 to Lam Penjor as carrier charge.

Before leaving to the border, Lam Penjor shared the plan with Pema Wangchuk and Kinley Tshering without the knowledge of Gembo and Tobgay. They planned that Pema Wangchuk and Kinley Tshering would send some robbers to rob off the gold from Lam Penjor and Gembo on their return journey and divide the gold later.

Kinley Tshering agreed to look for few robbers and Pema Wangchuk agreed to send his son Sonam Wangchuk who knew the smuggling routes. Kinley Tshering arranged four men- Changzey, Phub Dorji, Kinga and Tshering Dorji.

 

Carriers and robbers

After contacting the Tibetans, Lam Penjor carried 10kg and Gembo carried 9-kg of gold. Lam Penjor wrapped 5-kg around his body and put the other 5-kg in a bag while Gembo wrapped 5-kg around his body and 4-kg in his bag.

Then Lam Penjor texted Sonam Wangchuk about the receipt of the gold without Gembo’s knowledge and also told him that they would hold a night at Gyepthongchey. Lam Penjor informed him that they should start coming and rob them at Haap Dagay. After spending a night at Gyepthongchey, Gembo suggested to take the route from Lemdo. However, Lam Penjor, as planned with his accomplices suggested the Chunjeyphug route.

Meanwhile, Kinley Tshering dropped five robbers above Balakha from where they walked towards the border. They carried some rations. Changzey got sick after walking about three hours and he returned home.

The other four robbers spent a night on the way.  On reaching Haap Dagay, Sonam Wangchuk made Tshering Dorji, Kinga and Phub Dorji to wait there, as planned and he stayed away from them as he is known to Gembo.

When they reached Haap Dagay around 3pm, Lam Penjor cleared his throat to signal their arrival.  The three robbers, from a distant, told the carriers to stop. However, the duo ran in different directions. Tshering Dorji chased Lam Penjor and caught him hiding in a bush.

After Gembo disappeared, the trio went back to Lam Penjor, who gave them 3-kg gold. Lam Penjor told the robbers to tear apart his bag to make the incident look real.

After robbers left the scene, Lam Penjor made a phone call to Gembo and asked about his whereabouts. He told Gembo that he left his bag containing 5-kg gold and managed to escape with 5-kg wrapped around his body. Gembo also told him that he dropped his bag with the gold while he was being chased.

Before they met, Lam Penjor followed the footprints and found Gembo’s bag containing 4-kg gold. He took the gold and threw the bag in the bushes.

Lam Penjor was now in possession of 11kg. He hid 6-kg under a tree and carried only 5-kg around his body. Gembo also told him that he has only 4-kg and didn’t mention about 1-kg gold. Later, the investigation team found that Gembo had hidden 1-kg gold in his house in Drukgyal.

The duo informed Tobgay about the incident and how they managed to escape with only 9-kg gold. The 9-kg gold was handed over to Tobgay.

 

Transaction of gold

Tobgay after receiving 9-kg gold informed the same to Sonam Jamtsho. He called the carriers to come to his hotel in Paro to explain and account for the missing 10kg gold. Tobgay handed over 9-kg gold to Sonam Jamtsho.

Sonam Jamtsho was asked by the Tibetan owner to pack 9-kg gold in a rice bag and send it in a taxi to Phuentsholing. As instructed, Sonam Jamtsho sent the gold in an Indian taxi from Thimphu vegetable market. The driver handed over the consignment to the Indian owner in Phuentsholing.

Pressurised by both Tibetans and Indians, Sonam Jamtsho called Gembo and Tobgay in Drukgyal after 20 days to discuss the missing gold. The owners suspected the carriers of keeping the consignments and they decided to meet and narrow down the real suspects.

Tshering Dorji, Kinga and Phub Dorji along with Sonam Wangchuk on their way back from the scene after robbing the gold met Pema Wangchuk at Charizam, Tsento. They handed over 3-kg gold consignments to Pema Wangchuk who then handed over to Kinley Tshering and told him to pay commission to robbers after selling the gold.

Lam Penjor and Sonam Wangchuk went back to Haap Dagay next day to get the 6-kg gold that was hidden. After returning home, the 6-kg gold was divided between Lam Penjor and Pema Wanchuk. Both sold 2-kg gold each to an Indian man in Jaigoan at Nu 5M each and cleared their debts.

The investigation team seized 1kg gold each from Lam Penjor, Pema Wangchuk and Gembo from their respective houses on June 28 and handed it over to the Royal Monetary Authority on July 10.

 

3-kg gold and sanderwood

Kinley Tshering, Tshering Dorji, Kinga and Phub Dorji headed to Phuentsholing after receiving 3-kg gold.  Tshering Dorji and his father Kinley Tshering checked in a hotel in Jaigoan while other two stayed in Phuentsholing.

Kinley Tshering met his Indian friend Robin in Hashimara and told him about the gold he had in possession. He knew Robin through sanderwood business for which he had about Nu 2M balance to be paid to him.

He sold 1-kg gold to Robin for Nu 2.8M and Robin deducted Nu 2M that Kinley Tshering owed him. From Nu 0.8M he received from Robin, Kinley Tshering gave Nu 100,000 to Kinga, Nu 50,000 to his son and about Nu 0.3 to 0.4M to Phub Dorji.

After the gold transaction, Robin told him that he would supply sanderwood worth Nu 4M at the cost of Nu 3,000 per kg. After a few days, Kinley Tshering collected sanderwood from Hashimara and gave remaining 2-kg of gold to Robin who then paid him Nu 1.6M as top up.

He transported about 1,000kg of sanderwood to Paro from where Sonam Wangchuk collected it. However, the Royal Bhutan Army seized the sanderwood on June 19 from above Balakha in Paro.

Rinzin Wangchuk

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