Anti-Corruption Commission implicates former Bhutan minister for state land encroachment
THIMPHU (Kuensel/ANN) - Former finance minister Namgay Dorji recently submitted two documents to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) as proof that there was no foul play in the land transaction he is accused of, claiming that it was done as per the law.
The commission has implicated Namgay Dorji along with seven other people, including two former local government officials of Kawang county for encroaching into state land in Taba, Thimphu during the New Sathram Compilation (NCS) survey in 2000. Namgay Dorji served as finance minister from 2013 to 2018 and his case was in abeyance since he was contesting the National Assembly election in September 2018.
Namgay Dorji submitted an order that was issued based on the Thimphu district court’s ruling to the director of land record by the then former home minister Dago Tshering along with the court’s judgment to prove that a seven decimal plot comprising one bund of paddy field was transferred from Dechen Wangmo to her sister Leki Wangmo in 1993. “Accordingly, the National Land Commission had allotted thram 711 and plot number 164 from a vacant land,” the former minister claimed.
He claimed that the ACC could not trace this paper during its investigation and concluded that it was a “bogus transaction” and that he was being wrongly implicated. He suspects the complainant could have removed the legal document affecting the transfer of ownership.
ACC’s officials, however, said that there was nothing to do with the documents submitted by Namgay Dorji.
The commission reviewed the two documents dated 1992 that showed the transfer of 7 decimal plot from 20 decimal from one sister to another. “This only traces the origin of the plot,” an ACC official said.
This plot was later transferred to Namgay Dorji from his sister Leki Wangmo. “The alleged encroachment occurred after 2000,” the official said. It hasn’t changed the position of the commission on the case.”
The bone of contention on the case was plot numbers 166 and 164.
ACC’s investigation established that the land under question at Churagang, Taba (close to the choeten area) was associated with Dechen Wangmo, elder sister of Namgay Dorji. She bought 20 decimal land comprising six bunds of paddy fields from Bakhum in 1987 and became the owner of plot number 166.
In 1993, the 7-decimal land with thram No 711 and plot number 164 from initial 20 decimal land was reported to have been transferred from Dechen Wangmo to her sister Leki Wangmo.
During the course of investigation, it was found that plot 164 which Leki Wangmo, later claimed, as per the detailed survey of 1988, was once recorded as a ‘government land’ and other time as ‘thramless.’ The 1988 detailed survey map showed plot number 164 completely as a different plot and separate from the supposed mother plot 166.
Later, Leki Wamgmo had given her 7-decimal plot to her brother Namgay Dorji with the latter overseeing the 2000 NSC survey although actual transaction did not take place. During the survey, Namgay Dorji is alleged to have measured a state land identifying it as a 7-decimal land in plot number 164 and moved the plot away from the mother plot 166, which tantamount to encroachment into state land. The 7-decimal plot later increased to 10 decimal.
Namgay Dorji argued that the 7-decimal plot registered in his sister’s name bearing thram No 711 during NSC was surveyed adjacent and attached with its parent plot 166. However, he claimed that he could not go to the site during the survey although he was supposed to represent his sister. “The survey team in collaboration with one adjacent land owner shifted the land area to my disadvantage while ACC illogically blamed me,” he said. “By shifting it to plot number 164, I as land owner lost the area and deprived of road access.”
He said that as per 1988 detailed survey plot 164 was vacant land and had no knowledge that they were allotted from this plot. “So we took the physical position of the 7-decimal fragmented from thram 587 and plot 166,” the former finance minister said.
ACC established that Namgay Dorji initiated the transfer of the land from Leki Wangmo to him in 2001 through the Thimphu district court. To this effect, investigation findings stated that Namgay Dorji, through local government officials, had also processed a No Objection letter stating that the 7-decimal land was an ancestral possession of Leki Wangmo and the village elders had no issues pertaining to the land. Namgay Dorji submitted to ACC that the no objection was sought because landowners wanted to pave access road.
The former minister also asserted that the shift in plot was due to the Local Area Plan (LAP) initiated by Thimphu Thromde (municipal). He claimed that he learnt the shift in plot only as recent as 2009-2010 when his plot was again reallocated to a different area where his building stands today.
During investigation, ACC officials found that the Thimphu Structural Plan (TSP) was conceived in early 2000s from which the idea of LAP and land pooling emerged. Later, as Taba got transferred from Kawang county to Thimphu Municipal, TSP and its programme became part of Taba development project. The Taba LAP was approved in 2004. “Hence, the shift in plot number 164 as indicated in 2000 NSC maps against 1988 detailed survey map happened much prior to the conception of idea of the
LAP and land pooling,” the ACC’s findings stated.
Meanwhile, Dechen Wangmo’s remaining 13 decimal land under plot 166 was sold to Kencho Zangpo on May 30, 2000. Subsequent to it, Kencho Zangpo overseeing the 2000 NSC survey, saw his recently acquired land’s acreage increased to 47 decimal from its initial acreage of 13 decimal, measuring an excess land of 34 decimal.
The commission forwarded its findings to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) for probable prosecution on March 1. OAG officials said that OAG has just assigned an attorney for review.
Conduct of investigations
The commission received a complaint on November 20, 2017 alleging that Namgay Dorji had encroached into state land between 2004 and 2009 at Taba. The case was assigned on May 1 last year. However, due to the third parliamentary election for the National Assembly and the suspect’s participation in the election, the commission kept the case in abeyance for not less than three months from September to November 2018 to avoid possible perception of the case being a politically motivated pursuit.
During the course of investigation, which stretched over six months, ACC officials reviewed documents and summoned, interviewed and interrogated 19 people.
The commission on February 15 last month also froze the 10-decimal plot owned by Namgay Dorji from transaction, who has constructed a two-storied building on the disputed plot.
Based on the findings, the commission having being convinced beyond reasonable doubt, recommended the OAG to charge and prosecute eight individuals, including the former finance minister and two former local government officials of Kawang county in Thimphu for their alleged involvement in the encroachment of state land and plot measuring 3202 sq. ft to be restituted to the state.
ACC recommended to charge Namgay Dorji for encroaching a state land and deceptive practice as he misled survey officials by claiming that the land in question is an ancestral land of Leki Wangmo.
Former Kawang gup (county head) Sonam Dorji is implicated for two counts of offences as he endorsed the Kappa (one of the most important field document conatining details pertaining to land holding) form of Leki Wangmo’s 7-decimal plot and witnessed the illegal survey, which enabled Namgay Dorji to encroach state land. He also signed the No Objection Letter as the head of the county enabling Namgay Dorji to successfully register a state land.
The commission also recommended to charge former mangmi (county head assistant) Rinzin for two counts of land encroachment and two counts of deceptive practices for misrepresenting the facts while signing the no objection letter.
Other individuals, Tshewang Dorji, Kinley, Gyelmo, Chimi and Kota were implicated for facilitating Namgay Dorji to successfully register a state land in his name by signing the no objection letter stating that Leki Wangmo’s 7-decimal land identified by plot 164 is registered as an ancestral land.