Couple jailed for people smuggling, sexual exploitation

|     Fadley Faisal     |

A MARRIED couple, Clydeelyn H Zacal, a Filipina, and Francis Viban Bayong, a Cameroonian man, were sentenced by the High Court yesterday on charges of human smuggling and involvement in prostitution activities.

Clydeelyn was sentenced to seven years and six months’ jail and ordered to settle a fine of $15,000, or serve three months’ imprisonment in default of payment. Bayong was ordered to serve five years and four months’ jail and given one stroke of the cane and a fine of $5,000, or serve one month’s jail in default of payment.

Bayong was also given a fine of $500 for driving without a licence. He will have to serve one month’s jail if he defaults on the fine payment.

The duo’s crimes were uncovered when two Filipinas were arrested for not possessing passports on March 19, 2014 during an immigration raid.

Further investigations conducted into the two Filipinas revealed that they had been smuggled via car and boat in and out of Brunei on several occasions by Clydeelyn, known to the two as “Trixie”.

According to the two, Clydeelyn had known that neither of them possessed passports.

Investigations by the Human Trafficking Investigation Unit of the Royal Brunei Police Force revealed that the first of the two Filipinas to be smuggled into Brunei was in September 2012 from Malaysia.

Clydeelyn had informed the first Filipina that she would be working as a babysitter in Brunei upon arriving in the country, however, she did not receive any payment from Clydeelyn for her babysitting work.

The first smuggled woman was eventually asked to return to Malaysia.

It was at this point that Clydeelyn informed the Filipina to pay the second defendant, Bayong, to facilitate her exit out of Brunei.

The Filipina, not having any money, was touted to clients offering sexual services by Clydeelyn and Bayong.

Once sufficient money had been obtained, Bayong was paid and Clydeelyn accompanied this Filipina over to Malaysia.

The married couple’s modus operandi was unchanged in the smuggling of the second person in November 2013. The second Filipina had come to Brunei to earn money to enable her to travel back to the Philippines.

On July 29, 2015, the first defendant – who is facing eight charges – and the second defendant – who is facing four charges – claimed trial to the offences alleged against them by the Public Prosecutor.

The prosecution called on 15 witnesses – including the two smuggled persons – to provide evidence and testimony for the case.

Justice Dato Paduka Haji Hairol Arni bin Haji Abdul Majid in convicting the defendants, stated that the crux of the prosecution’s case centred on the testimony of the two smuggled persons, whose evidence he found to be believable and truthful.

The Court determined that although the smuggled persons were no strangers to the offering of sexual services, in this instance, “their hands were tied” as they had to claw their way out of their respective predicaments.

The Court further deduced that documentary evidence from the immigration stamps found in the first defendant’s passport provided a trace of her movements consistent with the evidence and testimony provided by the two smuggled persons.

Justice Dato Paduka Haji Hairol Arni also noted that “both defendants profited from their criminal enterprise”.

In sentencing the defendants, Justice Dato Paduka Haji Hairol Arni determined that the fact that both defendants were first-time offenders was inconsequential, emphasising that the trafficking and smuggling of persons is viewed by the Government of Brunei Darussalam as a very serious offence. This is reflected in the penalties attached to such offences under Brunei law.

He also noted that courts are having to deal with such cases with increasing frequency.

The court, in sentencing the defendants, also took into account aggravating realities of the case; ie the fact that both smuggled persons were repeatedly used as prostitutes by the defendants on top of the latter two’s smuggling offences.

Deputy Public Prosecutors Karen Tan and Siti Nurjauinah binti Haji Kula appeared on behalf of the Public Prosecutor. Both defendants were unrepresented.