SHERAB DORJI | Thimphu
The district court in Thimphu implicated six officials of the Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA), two traffic police personnel, and one private individual who were involved in bribery and fraudulent activities in connection to the issuance and getting of driving licenses without following due process.
An official from the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) said, “The judgment rendered on the RSTA officials are based on passive bribery of public servants and omission which amounts to abuse of functions.”
ACC sources based in Thimphu said while the charges against late Jamyang Dorji who died in November 2020 was dropped, the judgment for Pema Wangdi, who is an Assistant Registration and Transport Officer (ARTO), is still awaited from the Thimphu district court.
Pema Wangdi and the late Jamyang Dorji had allegedly signed spurious documents in June 2018 and approved the issuance of an Ordinary Licence (ODL) to Indra Maya Timsina without taking the mandatory driving test.
In addition, on 18 June 2018 late Jamyang Dorji and Thinley Dorji approved the issuance of ODL to Elawati Bhujel whereby the deceased official had also approved Professional Driving Licence (PDL) for others.
Kezang Phuntsho, base in-charge at RSTA, Haa was convicted to eight-month imprisonment, however, he can pay thrimthue instead of his imprisonment and be subsequently ordered to restitute Nu 15,000 to the state’s coffers.
Motor Vehicle Inspector (MVI) Rinzin Phuntsho at RSTA base office, Paro was also convicted to one-year imprisonment. Like others, he too can pay thrimthue instead of his imprisonment.
Netra Prasad Karki, MVI at RSTA Base office, Tsimatsham was convicted to one-year imprisonment, however, he can pay thrimthue instead of his imprisonment. He had appealed to the High Court and the High Court’s Bench-II reduced his sentence to a petty misdemeanor.
Sangay Dorji, Base In-charge at RSTA base office, Gedu was also convicted to one-year imprisonment.
A beneficiary, Wangchen also got an ODL after approval by the RSTA official Netra Prasad Karki and Sangay Dorji.
As for the two traffic police personnel, Gopa Thukten Chophel was convicted to one-year imprisonment and ordered to restitution of Nu 50,700. Similarly, Gopa Jigme was convicted to one year and six months of imprisonment and ordered to restitution Nu 53,500.
The two traffic police personnel who were involved in an attempt to process licenses fraudulently had allegedly collected about Nu 0.305 million (M) from 25 individuals. “Gopa Jigme had also forged a car sale deed and defrauded the owner of Nu 5000,” the commission stated.
Meanwhile, additional sources from the RBP headquarters said the two traffic personnel are terminated from their job.
A private individual Pema Dorji was convicted to six-month imprisonment and was ordered to restitute Nu 40,000.
Pema had fraudulently collected about Nu 0.671M from 36 individuals and he produced forged National Certificate 2 (NC-2). In addition, he paid Nu 0.35M to Gobin Gurung and Nu 10,000 to Mamta Acharya for helping him to produce and design fake certificates.
Reacting to the development, the public raised concerns over the fraudulent activities by RSTA and other concerned officials. One said, “Even if an individual does not get through the practical exam if they know the official on duty then they forge the result where they are given the license afterward.”
Another said, “The online registration for a driving test seems fair but getting the date for a driving test online is very challenging.”
A concerned citizen said the investigation by AAC will be a definite alarm bell for the entire official who misuses the power. “I believe there could be over 60 defendants mentioned as such in the ACC press release,” he said.
An official from ACC said there could be many unreported incidents but investigation and prosecution are all evidence-based.
The commission also stated that investigation was done after a complaint from the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) on 29 August 2019 regarding incidences of bribery and fraudulent issuing ODL, PDL, and change of car ownerships without following the due process.
Meanwhile, over 60 defendants were imprisoned to terms ranging from one year to six months by the district court of Thimphu and Haa. However, the defendants can pay thrimthue instead of their imprisonment.