The Supreme Court Judgment of 13 October 2022 upheld the decision of the Thimphu district court that convicted and sentenced Mr. Kota, owner of Druk Stars FC to four years imprisonment for passive commercial bribery and ordered him to pay restitution amount of Nu. 882,764.00.
Allegation of match-fixing first surfaced during the match between the Druk Stars FC and Paro United FC at Changlimithang Stadium, Thimphu on 24 September 2020, where Mr. Kota had been seen pressurizing the players of his club, the Druk Stars FC, to concede a goal. The Bhutan Football Federation (BFF), upon preliminary investigation, had sanctioned disciplinary action against Mr. Kota and his players and imposed a fine of Nu.250,000.00 on Mr. Kota. The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), launched full-fledged investigations on 2 December 2020, after an information enrichment exercise found prima facie case of corruption.
Mr. Kota, aka Kota Namgay, along with three friends, had established the football club, Lungta Club, in 1998 which was renamed the Druk Stars FC in 2000. Investigations revealed that Mr. Kota had not only solicited and pressurized the players of his club but had also made conditional offers of pecuniary benefits to the coaches and players of other clubs for the purpose of match-fixing. It was found that during Druk Stars FC’s matches against Gomo FC, Paro FC and Paro United FC on 5 March 2020, 1 August 2020 and 24 September 2020 respectively, Mr. Kota had deliberately selected young and inexperienced players as the first 11 players of his team. He had instructed them to lose the matches and offered them Nu.1,000.00 each in return. During the match, Mr. Kota had called, signaled, pressurized and reminded the players time and again to let the opponents score. The investigation revealed fraudulent financial transactions with Mr. Kota having received a total amount of Nu. 882,764.00 through a series of deposits from Indian nationals, i.e., Nu.399,000.00 during the Bhutan Super League, 2020 and Nu.483,764.00 during the Bhutan Premier League, 2020.
ACC forwarded the case for prosecution to the Office of the Attorney (OAG) on 23 June 2021. The OAG filed formal charges of passive commercial bribery under Section 62 of ACAB 2011, against Mr. Kota before the Thimphu Dzongkhag Court on 7 October 2021 and prayed for restitution of Nu.882,764.00 to the State.
On 20 May 2022, the Thimphu District Court convicted and sentenced Mr. Kota to four years imprisonment for passive commercial bribery and ordered him to restitute Nu.882,764.00. Mr. Kota appealed to the High Court. On 27 July 2022, the High Court convicted and sentenced Mr. Kota to three years imprisonment for passive commercial bribery and reduced the restitution amount to Nu.632,764.00, reasoning that Nu.250,000.00 had already been refunded to the BFF. Submitting that the deducted amount pertained to the recall of funds that had been provided by BFF to football clubs and was not included in the total restitution amount (the proceeds of crime) that had been prayed for, the OAG appealed to the Supreme Court. Consequently, on 13 October 2022, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Trial Court.