The five suspects had rented a total of 26 vehicles, some of which were sold and pawned to others
During the ongoing investigation into the vehicle scam which was first reported by Business Bhutan on October 16, it is found that a 41-year-old Pema Thinley from Mongar is the one who came up with the idea of renting the vehicles and then selling them to others.
The accused is a businessman based in Thimphu.
Who arranged the vehicles for rent?
Kinley Dorji, 28, a driver from Gumkarmo village in Limbu Gewog in Punakha, knew Pema Thinley through his wife’s uncle, Nima Wangdi. Pema Thinley had asked him to rent his Bolero and also asked him to look for other vehicles.
The 28-year-old agreed to work as a broker for him and in return received Nu 5,000 as commission for each vehicle. A total of nine vehicles (including his Bolero) were brokered for Pema Thinley, but he stopped looking for other vehicles after the accused failed to pay the rental payment on time to the respective vehicle owners.
Pema Thinley told Choki Wangmo, a 39-year-old businesswoman from Thimphu, about the rental business, after which Tshering Deki, 31, and Pem Zangmo, 40, got involved.
The defendants then found other brokers who procured vehicles for them and continued the trend of renting the vehicles and then selling them to others.
On September 22, Tshering Tobgay of Shengana, Punakha, filed a written complaint with the Punakha police stating that his vehicle (Bolero), which he had rented out to a lady, was sold to another person for Nu 250,000. The FIR had been recorded, while the suspect was sent on bail.
Then on October 11, a woman complained to the Punakha Police that Pema Thinley had rented her alto car for two months and did not return the vehicle after the rental period expired.
Pema Thinley and his wife Kinzang were asked to report to the police and later they were arrested.
Punakha police retrieved 18 vehicles between October 11 and October 12 through the Check Post Management System (CPMS). Through this, the police established that the three women were involved in the case and the victims revealed their names.
Pema Zangmo, Tshering Deki and Choki Wangmo were asked to report to the Khuruthang Traffic Office on October 12.
Initially, they denied selling the vehicles to others but admitted that they had mortgaged the vehicles, but police investigation revealed that they had indeed sold the vehicles. The three suspects were arrested and taken into custody.
Charges filed against the individuals
The suspects were charged with deceptive practices and forgery as the modus operandi was the same.
However, the wife of Pema Thinley was charged with aiding and abetting as police investigation revealed that she was not directly involved in the scam, but took the calls from the vehicle owners on behalf of her husband.
Vehicles rented by the individual suspects
Choki Wangmo had rented nine vehicles, one of which was with her, while the other six were sold.
Pema Zangmo had hired six vehicles and Tshering Deki had hired eight vehicles.
Pema Thinley and his wife Kinzang hired three vehicles, two of which were sold in Thimphu, while an Alto was handed over to the police.
Previous criminal records of the suspects
During the investigation, it was found that Pema Zangmo had been sentenced to two years and six months for forgery in Thimphu in 2020.
Kinzang had filed a civil case against her in the Paro court in 2020. Her uncle had taken a loan from the Druk Punjab Bank and given her 50% of the loan amount while she agreed to pay 50% of the repayment. When she failed to make the repayment, a case was filed against her.
A case of deceptive practice and forgery in connection with a vehicle was registered against Pema Thinley at the Thimphu police station about two-three months ago.
Punakha police also checked the bank details of the suspects and a large amount was withdrawn from their accounts. The account balances of the suspects show not more than Nu 12,000, except for one which has about Nu 54,000.
Police said that they colluded among themselves (transactions to each other was reflected in the bank statement) and the suspects have maintained accounts with the BoB, BNB and Druk Punjab Bank.
In an interview with Business Bhutan, Lt. Col. Chador Namgay, the Officer-In-Command (OC) of Punakha Police said additional clerks from Lobesa and Khuruthang had been deployed to expedite the case as 26 cases had been registered against the five suspects.
“Meanwhile, we suspect that there might be more cases of similar nature. We urge the public to be careful from now on and not fall for such cases,” said the OC.
Police are still investigating the case and preparing to forward it to the OAG.
Chencho Dema from Punakha