HC rejects appeal against conviction, fines imposed

Fadley Faisal

The High Court recently rejected an appeal made by a company and its managing director who sought to overturn their convictions on charges involving the Halal Meat Act and Customs Order, and reduction in fine.

The Magistrate’s Court in July, 2019 handed a BND38,700 fine each to Agongmas Trading Company, represented by 67-year-old proprietor Haji Abdullah bin Haji Metussin and its 37-year-old Managing Director Sharoon Fadzillah bin Haji Abdullah for importing and possessing meat products without holding the required Halal import and export permits and permit from the exporting country, and selling these products to another company.

In default of payment of the fines, the proprietor and the managing director would have had to serve 18 months’ jail.

The Magistrate also ordered for Agongmas Trading Company’s Halal import permit to be cancelled, and for the permit to not be issued to the company, the company’s affiliated family members or any other companies the defendants have shares in.

The defendants were charged with being involved in the illegal acquisition and sale of 148 sacks of beef lungs amounting to 2,216.55 kilogrammes, 330 boxes of chicken wings of 15 kilogrammes each, and 185 boxes of chicken tails of 10 kilogrammes each.

It was found that the defendants sold 150 cartons of beef lungs amounting to 2,210.5 kilogrammes to Karya Budi Sdn Bhd.

The offences were first unearthed sometime in the first quarter of 2011 when Halal Control Food Division (BKMH) officers inspected the company warehouse and found various meats stored without the Brunei Halal logo and the meat imported from Uruguay without the Halal logo from the exporting country.

Lawyer Rozaiman Abdul Rahman, representing both the company and managing director in the appeal, contended the convictions on his clients claiming that the court made a technical error and that the prosecution has failed to prove the case beyond the court’s reasonable doubt.

The prosecution assisted the court in responding to the appeal, and the court agreed with the prosecution leading to its decision to maintain the convictions.

In maintaining the convictions, the High Court agrees with the prosecution following a previous case citation that offences under Halal Meat Act are strict liability in nature.

The High Court also rejected the ‘excessive fines’ application citing that the trial magistrate had taken into account the delay of the case leading up to its conclusion.

DPP Dr Mohd Hussin Ali bin Idris represented the Public Prosecutor as respondent in the application heard by Justice Pengiran Datin Paduka Hajah Rostaina binti Pengiran Haji Duraman.