Home Minister appeals to High Court on six grounds

Home Minister Sherub Gyeltshen’s attorney has appealed to the High Court against the judgment passed by the Thimphu Dzongkhag Court’s criminal bench I on six grounds for claiming false vehicle insurance of worth Nu 226,546

The Minister who is currently in Uzbekistan has been convicted to a prison term of two months. The verdict was passed on August 27.

The minister’s attorney, Yeshey Wangdi, in a press release issued to media stated that the reason for appealing was because the case involved ‘question of law and question of facts’. The appeal letter also stated that when Lyonpo claimed the insurance from RICBL, he already had valid comprehensive insurance. Although there were critical evidences submitted to the court proving the innocence of Minister which was left unattended by the trial court.

The appeal letter also mentioned that the conviction was fully based on the vague statement submitted during the investigation which the prosecutor failed to prove with corroborating evidences vitiating the admission made by the client.

“We have had expert witness summoned to the court upon request by the prosecutor, but the statement of expert witness substantiating the genuineness and legitimacy of such claims were not taken into account,” the appeal letter stated.

The appeal letter also mentioned that the case warranted the expert opinion and justice would only prevail on the opinion of the expert. “However, such evidences, so cardinal, were not reflected to reason the judgment,” stated the appeal letter.

When the Minister claimed the Insurance from RICB, he had valid comprehensive Insurance and the court ordering his client to refund the claim was not in line with the risk and guarantee of the insurance policy, the appeal letter stated. “This claim is duly availed from the company against the premium paid by the customer covering the risk involved therein and this shall not, at all, be deemed to be the money of the company or public.”

Talking on the issue, Prime Minister Lyonchhoen Dr. Lotay Tshering said: “While we respect the court’s decision, it was unfortunate to learn the recent news. Lyonpo is out of station and you are aware his lawyer has decided to appeal. I feel for not just Lyonpo but all others involved in the case as well. Every citizen of this country deserves the respect and right to avail of further appeal offered by our fair and efficient justice system. While law takes its due course, government will respect and ensure we uphold the rule of law. When the time comes, if need be, we will act on what is best for our country.”

Meanwhile the appeal letter from Lyonpo’s attorney stated that the issue from three years ago was brought to the limelight last year as the nation was gearing towards the third parliamentary elections. “The case may not have surfaced, let alone receive any attention, under normal circumstances.”

Lyonpo Sherub Gyeltshen is charged of fraud under section 311 of the Penal Code of Bhutan. The section states that a defendant shall be guilty of the offence of fraudulent obtaining of insurance, if the defendant presents a false statement as part of an application for commercial or personal insurance or as part of claim for payment on a commercial or personal insurance policy. The offence is graded petty misdemeanor and can pay compensate in lieu of prison terms.

Also the minister has been asked to refund the full amount to the insurance company through the Office of Attorney General (OAG).

Further, the former Executive Director of Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan (RICBL), Sonam Dorji is charged with two offences of misusing his position and also for changing the insurance cover of Lyonpo’s vehicle insurance from third-party to comprehensive scheme. He had also asked his employees to change the scheme without inspecting the vehicle and given Lyonpo Sherub Gyeltshen a claim of Nu 226,546.

Sonam Dorji is convicted for one year, which is a misdemeanor. Sangay Wangdi, RICBL’s General Manager was sentenced to six months in prison for solicitation and asking inspection officer, Ugyen Namdrol to get blank cash receipts from an automobile workshop to adjust the claims.

Ugyen Namdrol is sentenced for a year for forgery and deceptive practice.

Another official, Sangay Dorji along with the proprietor of Dagap workshop, Yonten Phuntsho has been charged for aiding and abetting for which they were sentenced to a month and six months’ imprisonment respectively.

Chencho Dema from Thimphu