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Asst. BDBL branch manager allegedly embezzles Nu 3.8mn

The assistant branch manager of Bhutan Development Bank Limited (BDBL) in Pemagatshel is found to have allegedly embezzled more than Nu 3.8mn by forging documents in the name of eight individuals by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).

The bank had reported the issue to the Pemagatshel police on July 17, 2017 and the case was later forwarded to ACC on August 28, 2017. The ACC initiated investigation into the alleged embezzlement of the bank’s rural credit fund from September 4, 2017.

The asst. branch manager, Phurpa Gyeltshen, had allegedly created 36 fictitious loan accounts; 19 of which were created in Gelephu branch and 17 at Pemagatshel branch. The total embezzled amount comes to Nu 11,764,015 of which Nu 3,050,000 and Nu 8,472,000 belonged to Gelephu and Pemagatshel branch respectively. However, some of the loan accounts were already found to be closed.

The embezzlement scheme started as early as 2012.

Meanwhile, Phurpa Gyeltshen first joined BDBL as Dzongkhag Credit Assistant on April 1, 2000 at Chhukha branch and was later transferred to Sarpang, Gelephu and Pemagatshel as Branch Assistant/Product Service Officer in 2010, 2011, 2015 respectively.

His job responsibilities included meeting the overall banking requirements of his assigned gewog(s), such as making loan appraisals, visiting the gewogs for Farmers Outreach Banking, mobilizing savings and catering to other banking needs.

The accused had allegedly filled up the front page of loan appraisal forms of these accounts with forged signatures/ thumbprints and were reflected as clients, while the mandatory documents such as mortgage declaration, authorization, and verifications provided by gups and tshogpas were taken out from the closed files of various ex-clients. However, for some accounts, files were either found missing or have never been created.

Investigation also revealed that the accused prepared and approved the fictitious loans whenever he officiated as the Branch Manager. In terms of withdrawal from the clients’ accounts, the accused filled in the withdrawal slips and handed over to the cashiers during peak hours with excuses that the client was in hurry and had left the withdrawal slip with him. In few instances, he withdrew cash in the field from the fictitious accounts.

Apart from the 36 fictitious loan accounts, the accused had also sanctioned one illegitimate loan amounting to Nu 0.3mn and four illegitimate loans amounting to Nu 1.9mn at Gelephu and Pemagatshel branch respectively.

Acc’s investigation into rural credit fund maintained by Phurpa Gyeltshen as PSO at Pemagatshel branch also revealed that the latter had embezzled around Nu 11.76mn over a period of five to six years. The embezzlement was also aided by one of his friends (a client of the bank).

It was also found out that Phurpa Gyeltshen bought a 50-decimal plot for himself, a hotel for his girlfriend, and lent and borrowed money to and from many individuals for business ventures. These activities were reportedly all financed through the embezzlement of rural credit fund of the bank.

Meanwhile, ACC’s investigation also revealed that the management was aware of Phurpa Gyeltshen’s illicit activities; mainly former Chief Manager of Gelephu branch and BDBL’s Regional Manager for central region. The Commission also considers them accountable for supervisory failure and lax attitude towards abuse of functions by subordinates.

According to ACC’s investigation, the loan denial issue was raised by the clients in Gelephu after Phurpa Gyeltshen was transferred to Pemagatshel branch. While both the managers were informed, the management did not take serious action against the issue which led to the continued embezzlement of funds from Pemagatshel branch to cover up the accounts created in Gelephu branch.

ACC finds Phurpa Gyeltshen liable for offence of embezzlement of funds or securities by public servant, offence of abuse of function, and forgery.

Chencho Dema from Thimphu