As a Thimphu court prepares for the opening of a trial against three senior officials accused of plotting to overthrow and take over high-level positions in the Supreme Court and the Royal Army of Bhutan (RBA) , the spotlight is on a woman who was a former protocol secretary. at the Embassy of India. Khandu Wangmo is said to have played a key role in the intrigues.

Officials arrested Supreme Court Judge Kuenlay Tshering, Drangpon (Associate Judge) Yeshey Dorji and the Commander of the Royal Bodyguards (RBG), Brigadier Thinley Tobgye, face several charges, including “complicity in mutiny, nepotism and favoritism, embezzlement of JBR funds and fictitious documents to obtain loans ”, according to the official Bhutanese newspaper Kuensel. All three were denied bail by the Thimphu ‘Dzonkhag’ court on February 17 and face a trial, which is expected to begin this week.

Ms Wangmo, a well-known figure in Thimphu while dealing with senior officials and royal court officials due to her post at the Indian Embassy from 2012 to 2016, is accused of having managed to swindle a number of people to help him. .

‘Frightfully manipulative’

The Hindu spoke to a number of diplomats and other officials who had dealt with her during her tenure at the embassy. They described her as “very efficient” and “very plugged in” to the upper echelons of Thimphu society, while others said she was “ambitious” and “terribly manipulative”. “The most shocking part is how she managed to convince and involve very high-ranking and intelligent officials,” said a resident of Thimphu familiar with the matter. Ms. Wangmo was arrested in 2019 on “seditious allegations” and continues to be detained, facing 11 charges of criminal conspiracy in the latest case. The arrests in February are believed to have come as a result of his questioning.

During her tenure at the Embassy, ​​Ms. Wangmo also trained as a “Desuup”, or volunteer part of a “Peacekeepers” program launched by the King of Bhutan, where she says she met many senior military officials. In an article for the Kuensel in 2015, she wrote: “I’m a DeSuup ready for action. Most importantly, I am a pilgrim seeking relationships that honor and uplift. My destiny has been to weave my own little story into the great fabric of the illustrious Indo-Bhutan relationship, ”signing himself as DeSuup Bumden Khandu Wangmo, Embassy of India.

“ Not a very high official ”

However, officials said The Hindu that she was not a very high official and that she had not continued her links there after the end of her contract. “There is no connection with the Indian embassy – she left here in 2016,” said an embassy official, when asked if Bhutanese police had made any inquiries. formal with them. A source who had seen the indictment in Dzonkha’s official language against the three officers clarified that there was no suggestion of his ties to the Thimphu embassy in the case.

The most serious of the charges concerns a plot to overthrow RBA Chief Lieutenant-General Batoo Tshering by Brigadier Tobgye, who is responsible for the security of King Jigme Khesar Namgyal and other members of the Bhutanese royal family.

Mr Kuenlay Tshering and Mr Dorji, who was himself married to Ms Wangmo earlier, were allegedly part of the conspiracy against the RBA chief, which involved the use of documents fraudulently obtained from a deal for vehicles of the United Nations to trap him, with the aim of catapulting himself to the positions of Chief Justice and Registrar of the Court respectively.

Duped

Give a detailed account of the investigation in Bhutanese Editor-in-chief Tenzing Langsam said that according to their testimony, the three officials said they were duped by Ms. Wangmo into believing their actions were in accordance with the wishes of some “higher authorities” in Bhutan.

“A familiar technique reported by many who came in contact with her was that she first showed a photo taken with the highest authority, then dropped the names of the highest authority to indicate her proximity. Then later, suddenly, in the middle of a conversation, she was pretending to receive a call from authority and again asserting that higher authority was calling her, ”when the call was actually from a member. family, Lamsang wrote.

Investigators also looked into the allegation that in 2016 Ms Wangmo attempted to manipulate the currently detained Supreme Court judge into recommending the UK government-run Chevening scholarship. However, the British Honorary Consulate in Thimphu denied the accusation that the prestigious scholarship Ms. Wangmo received could have been obtained through “undue or unfair influence on the selection committee”.

The full range of charges against Ms. Wangmo and the three officials will be known in the coming weeks, as the trial begins.

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