Case No. 20 sees its first witness on the $1.5 million "loan" issue
Phayul[Saturday, August 03, 2019 23:16]
By Tenzin Sangmo

Plaintiff asking question to the CTA accountant Tenzin Shedhen. Photo by TSJC
Plaintiff asking question to the CTA accountant Tenzin Shedhen. Photo by TSJC
LEH, August 3: The fifth hearing in Case No. 20 held on Friday at the Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission (TSJC) tackled the issue of whether the USD1.5 million dollars procured by the Tibetan Community Development Fund (TCDF) from the Tibet Fund was a loan or a grant.

The arguments revolved around the sixth of the eight issues framed, the 8th point in the 10-point clarification issued by the Kashag, which the plaintiff Penpa Tsering denied as a baseless allegation.

“At the meeting of the Representatives of the Offices of Tibet held in Brussels in September 2016, Representative Penpa Tsering asked whether USD 1.5 million dollars from Tibet Fund used to purchase DC office building was a loan. In the presence of all other Representatives, Sikyong clearly explained that it was not a loan, but an amount that Tibet Fund had contributed and did not expect to be paid back. Despite Sikyong’s clarification and without consulting and seeking guidance and approval from Kashag and DIIR, Representative Penpa Tsering reported to CTA auditors that a loan payment for OoT DC office was outstanding. All the funds received and spent towards the purchase of the Office of Tibet building in Washington, DC is clearly documented, audited and fully accounted. CTA has all the relevant documents. This incident again demonstrates Representative Penpa Tsering’s lack of trust in Kashag’s leadership and led the Kashag to serve the final advisory in July 2017.”

The plaintiff attended the hearing with his lawyer while the defendant was represented by his lawyer, Home Kalon Sonam Topgyal and Kashag’s Under-Secretary Tenzin Phuntsok.

The plaintiff had said that the amount is listed as loan in the Tibet Fund account book but doesn’t reflect in the TCDF account, which owns the Office of Tibet building. He said the issue was brought to the CTA auditor’s notice in order to ensure that there is no legal and accounting hassle in the future because of the discrepancy in the documentation in the respective offices.

He also refuted the defendant lawyer’s claim that Sikyong explained the issue to the representative individually at the 2016 Representatives meeting in Brussels.

The defendant team maintains that the 8th point in the 10-point clarification is true and explained, “The Tibet Fund, from the beginning, didn’t expect the USD 1.5 million dollars to be returned or have the slightest perception of it being a loan which is why it remains unspecified in the TCDF account book as we foresee no legal predicament arising out of it.”

The defendant who needs to prove that the auditor was influenced by the representative to reflect the amount as loan in CTA audit called the concerned CTA auditor Tenzin Shedhen to testify in the court of what transpired during his visit to the Office of Tibet, Washington in April 2017.

Shedhen testified that the document reflecting the amount as a loan was obtained from the Tibet Fund.

The defence lawyer, also required by the court to prove how the amount was a grant, said it had to be listed as loan in the Tibet Fund’s book out of necessity as it is not convenient to list USD 1.5 million dollars as a grant suddenly.

“In fact, in March 2018, $7,50,000 was written off from the Tibet Fund’s book and the remaining is to be written off by January 2021, and recording it as loan in CTA’s account could pose more risk,” he added.

The plaintiff said the amount was listed as a loan for a duration of 30 years at the time and all the subsequent Tibet Fund’s letters use the words, “shall,” “will,” “hopes to,” and so far had not stated that any amount has been written off.

Speaking to the media afterwards, Lobsang Dakpa, the defence lawyer reiterated the amount was used to purchase the building of the office of Tibet, Washington, and there is no hint of a case of corruption.

Plaintiff, on the other hand, said, it is strange how the CTA chief auditor feels it is okay not to list the amount as loan in the CTA book, that the court also deems peculiar given that the total amount is not written off yet.

The TSJC today announced that the next hearing will take place on August 7, 2019.