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RBA prosecutors ask court for investigation

The absence of records of spending on restricted items was one of the major flaws, which led to embezzlement charges in the DeSuung training programme, Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) prosecutors said at the High Court’s Bench I yesterday.

RBA lawyer Captain Kinga Tenzin rebutted the appeal submissions from four defendants, including two Majors who served as the administrative officers, in the on-going embezzlement case of the programme.

He said that administrative officers of few batches have maintained proper records on how the expenses were made and on subsequent adjustments.

“These batches also bought and served restricted items but had maintained clear records with note sheets approved by the Commandant and other officials,” the lawyer said. “If similar thing was done then there would be no issue.”

One of the defendants, Major Jurmey served as the administrative officer of the sixth batch DeSuung training programme at the military training centre in Wangduephodrang, which was conducted for two weeks with a total fund of Nu 1.5 million (M).

He was convicted of embezzling Nu 174,000 from the training programme fund by the Lungtengphug military court in December last year. He challenged the RBA lawyers to prove how he embezzled.

Captain Kinga Tenzin also rebutted to the appeal by Sonam Lhagyal and two non-commissioned officers Sonam Dorji and Wangchuk in another hearing at the same bench and refuted charges of duress during the investigation by the Anti-Corruption Commission.

He maintained in both hearings that the shopkeepers gave their statements to the commission voluntarily and independently. “The statements were taken only after carefully going through the receipts, bills and the site visits,” Captain Kinga Tenzin said.

He also asked the court to study the case in detail. “We pray that the court would uphold the judgment of the lower court, for which the court exercised due diligence.”

Major Jurmey submitted he has not embezzled the funds but had adjusted for imported alcohol, prohibited items and cash prizes.

“Everyone knows that these items were served and adjustments had to be made,” Major Sonam Lhagyal, who was given a sentence of four years and six months in prison, said. The lower court convicted Sonam Lhagyal of embezzling Nu 1,226,949. He said adjusting the alleged amount was impossible and the allegations based entirely on the statement of the shopkeepers to ACC. Citing sections from the Evidence Act, he said the lower court did not consider the statements the shopkeepers and the defendants submitted during the trial.

He said that the conditional option to seek jabmi only from the RBA was unfair.

Defendants said the court judgment relying entirely on the statements of the shopkeepers submitted to the Anti-Corruption Commission was unfair too.

NCO Sonam Dorji, who is convicted for aiding and abetting, said the shopkeepers had withdrawn their statements in court. “I was only dealing with goods and I did not deal with receipts,” he told the court yesterday.

Wangchuk, who was also involved in another two cases, said he was not even called to trial but convicted in this case for aiding and abetting and given two years and three months prison term.

Major Jurmey’s next hearing is on February 19 and Major Sonam Lhagyal and the two NCOs’ will be on March 5.

Tshering Palden

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