THE High Court rejected a lawsuit by a Malaysian company against the Commissioner of Police, alleging the unlawful retention of their money while claiming it as legal under the Criminal Asset Recovery Order.
Micaland Sdn Bhd, a Malaysian company operating in Brunei Darussalam, represented by lawyer Yusof Halim, Evelyn Lee and Eugene Loh, applied in an originating summons to the High Court before Chief Justice Dato Seri Paduka Haji Kifrawi for Micaland’s cash to be released, which was seized by the Customs and retained by the police.
Micaland contended that the cash was illegally seized. They also questioned the Brunei Government’s belief that the cash was of ‘tainted property’ in executing the seizure and retention.
Deputy Public Prosecutors Suhana Hj Sudin, Ahmad Nizam DP Hj Ismail and Fauziah Hj Sulaiman, acting on behalf of the respondent Commissioner of Police, contended that they have the jurisdiction to seize and retain the cash believing that it was obtained through illegal means.
Micaland is a registered money changer in Malaysia having its registered office in Limbang, Sarawak and other branches in Lawas, Sabah and Miri, Sarawak.
On October 12, 2013, Louis Lu Zen Kun acting on behalf of Micaland had taken a sum of money from Micaland’s Lawas branch to be transported to the Limbang branch, transiting through Temburong, Brunei.
The denominations carried by Louis were RM1,200,000; USD11,906; GBP820; CAD1,490; 500,000 Philippine Pesos; BND41,177 and SGD13,793. Louis was driven from Lawas by Yung Chow Wang carrying the money in bags placed at the rear of the vehicle.
The bags were not concealed and visible. Upon reaching Labu, Temburong and after clearing the immigration checkpoint, Louis had every intention of making a declaration of the money at the Customs office, where he was instructed to obtain a declaration form. Unfortunately, the car was stopped by officers before Yung could drive to the Customs office. Upon discovering the money in the rear of the vehicle, the officers seized the money for being uncustomed goods and the vehicle as a subject matter used in the commission of the offence.
On November 4, 2013 the Public Prosecutor informed Micaland through its solicitors that the matter was referred to the Royal Brunei Police Force for investigations under the Criminal Asset Recovery Order and had no objections to release the vehicle.
On December 13, 2013 the vehicle was released. Investigations went more into the source of the money instead of the ownership, and is still not completed.
The Chief Justice said that since the police are still investigating to verify the ownership of the seized cash, the court cannot make declarations to release the cash and decided that the cash had not been unlawfully seized and retained by the Royal Customs and Excise Department and the Royal Brunei Police Force.
The Chief Justice also ordered for the seized cash not to be released to Micaland’s Advocates & Solicitors which was applied by them.
Lastly, costs of the application have been ordered to be paid by Micaland to the respondent.