Criminal conspirators slapped five to ten years

By Tashi Dhendup

The most recent highlight on the high-profile criminal conspiracy case saw the Thimphu District Court sentencing the four individuals involved from five to more than a decade in prison.

Supreme Court Justice Kuenlay Tshering, Pemagatshel Drangpon Yeshi Dorji, former Royal Body Guard Commandant Brigadier Thinley Tobgay and Khandu Wangmo were sentenced to a concurrent prison term ranging from five years to 12 years and six months for the commission of criminal conspiracy, mutiny, abettor of mutiny and other criminal offences.

The court verdict which was passed on Friday also convicted Khandu Wangmo to ten years and six months in prison and former RBG Commandant Brigadier Thinley Tobgay to 12 years and six months. Supreme Court Justice Kuenlay Tshering and Pema Gatshel Drangpon Yeshi Dorji were sentenced to five years each.

Khandu Wangmo, who was arrested in July last year, was handed down a concurrent sentence of nine years in prison for five charges. The charges include abetting mutiny, criminal misappropriation of property, larceny by deception, illegal possession of a firearm and impersonation of uniformed personnel.

She was also sentenced to one year and six months in prison for solicitation of official misconduct and harassment. But she can pay in lieu of the prison term.

As per the judgment, the court dismissed two counts of solicitation of official misconduct and obstruction of lawful authorities which include impeding arrest warrant by hiding former Chang Gup Kanjur.

Meanwhile, former RBG Commandant Brigadier Thinley Tobgay, who was also arrested in November last year, was sentenced concurrently to ten years for mutiny, criminal misappropriation of property and aiding and abetting the illegal possession of a firearm and impersonation of uniform personnel.

He was also sentenced to two years and six months in prison for official misconduct and harassment. However, he can also pay in lieu of the two and half years prison term.

The district court sentenced Supreme Court Justice Kuenlay Tshering to five years in prison for abetting mutiny. However, the court dismissed the commission amounting to an abuse of functions and obstruction of lawful authorities.

Pema Gatshel Drangpon Yeshi Dorji was convicted of abetting mutiny and larceny by deception. He was handed down a concurrent prison term of five years. Both the judges were arrested in November last year.

The Thimphu dzongkhag court conducted the first preliminary hearing of the case involving top officials from the judiciary and the Royal Body Guards (RBG), in March 3 this year.

The prosecutor from the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) submitted a series of charges under criminal conspiracy, mutiny, abettor of mutiny, and other criminal offenses against the four defendants β€” Khandu Wangmo, RBG’s former commandant Brigadier Thinley Tobgay, Justice Kuenlay Tshering of the Supreme Court, and Pemagatshel Drangpon Yeshey Dorji.

Case background

Yeshi Dorji, then the Drangpon of Pemagatshel Dzongkhag Court, filed a Crime Information Report (CIR) of Impersonation of Uniformed Personnel and Deceptive Practice against Khandu Wangmo and former Brigadier of the Royal Body Guards (RBG) Thinley Tobgay on July 9, 2020 to the Crime Branch of the Royal Bhutan Police.

At around the same time, Col. Karma Lodey Samphel of the Royal Bhutan Army had also lodged a written complaint to Royal Bhutan Police on October 20, 2020, against Khandu Wangmo and Thinley Tobgay for harassing him for a period of seven months.

The Royal Bhutan Police then carried out a detailed investigation whereby it revealed that Khandu Wangmo, in collusion with Justice Kuenlay Tshering, Drangpon Yeshi Dorji and Thinley Tobgay were found to be involved in the commission of Criminal Conspiracy of Mutiny and Abettor of Mutiny, and other criminal offences over the period of four years starting from 2015 till 2018, which were planned discreetly.

The Criminal Conspiracy of Mutiny to overthrow the Chief Operation Officer of the Royal Bhutan Army and other criminal acts in collusion with Thinley Tobgay, Justice Kuenlay Tshering, and Drangpon Yeshi Dorji were established through their voluntary confessional written statements to the RBP corroborated by the collation of documentary and electronic evidence forwarded to the Office of Attorney General.

The criminal conspiracy and the intent to achieve personal gratification of replacing the Army Chief, Supreme Court Chief Justice and Registrar General were evident corroborated by numerous incriminating evidences, detailed records of discrete meetings, well-planned and final lodging of unsubstantiated written allegation against the Chief of Army.

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