High Court overturns Thimphu District Court’s judgment, hands Anim Damchoe nine-year prison term for misappropriation of funds & possessing unexplained wealth

The High Court has overturned the Thimphu District Court’s judgment regarding Damchoe Choden or Anim Damchoe’s Buddha Dordenma project case. The judgment was passed yesterday. The High Court sentenced Anim Damchoe to nine years in prison for misappropriation of the project fund and possession of unexplained wealth. Earlier this year, the Thimphu District Court acquitted Anim Damchoe of the charges.

Dissatisfied with the Thimphu District Court’s judgment, the Office of the Attorney General appealed to the High Court in January this year.

According to the judgment, the High Court determined that the Buddha Dordenma project though initiated by Lam Tshering Wangdi is not a private venture but a government project.

The judgement states that the state provided basic infrastructure like road, electricity, and water, and waived off tax for visits by the project’s foreign sponsors to Bhutan.

According to the judgment, Anim Damchoe despite voluntarily serving as the Project Manager without any remuneration was found possessing unexplained wealth such as land, houses, vehicles and businesses. The judgment further states that she was not able to provide evidence for the unexplained wealth.

The High Court ordered properties seized by the Anti-Corruption Commission from Anim Damchoe to be auctioned and the proceeds to be deposited into the Buddha Dordenma project’s account. The High Court sentenced her to one year in prison for possessing unexplained wealth.

Further, the court found Anim Damchoe guilty of misappropriating more than Nu 57 M from the project fund. Besides sentencing her to eight-year in prison for misappropriating the project fund, the court ordered Anim Damchoe to restitute the amount to the project’s account within a year.

According to the judgment, the court directed the government and the Central Monastic Body to complete the construction of the Buddha Dordenma Project.

Meanwhile, another case of Anim Damchoe concerning tax evasion is with the Supreme Court.

Kinzang Lhadon

Edited by Tshering Zam

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