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    His Majesty calls for internal crimes to be nipped in the bud

    Rokiah Mahmud

    Some Royal Customs and Excise Department (RCED) officers have been found to sell off confiscated contraband for profit, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam said in a titah during an unscheduled visit to the agency yesterday.

    The monarch said that action has yet been taken on majority of the confiscated items, which are still stored at control posts or the state store in Gadong.

    “Certain confiscated items should already be destroyed by now. Rather, they are being sold to the public, especially foreigners. Aside from selling them, they are also being shared among officers of the RCED and the Royal Brunei Police Force (RBPF) for personal use,” His Majesty said.

    The monarch added, “If this is truly what is happening, it indicates that the process of destroying contraband is not being carried out correctly; instead, it is done in a careless manner, without the presence of a superior officer to oversee the process.

    “If this is what’s been done to confiscated cigarettes, it is not impossible that the same thing is happening with alcohol and raw meats. The prevention and eradication of such ‘internal crimes’ require the courage of senior officers,” His Majesty said.

    His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam during an unscheduled visit to the Royal Customs and Excise Department. PHOTO: INFOFOTO
    His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam during a visit to the Royal Customs and Excise Department. PHOTO: BAHYIAH BAKIR

    The monarch also said, “The RCED has been around for over 100 years. It has seen a number of officers at its helm. However, few can steer the department towards success.”

    His Majesty said as the world ages and mankind becomes more progressive, the path that the RCED needs to take becomes increasingly rocky as matters surface to test the integrity, intelligence and transparency of the officers.

    The monarch added that what continues to be a challenge to the country is to have officers who are diligent, hardworking, honest, courageous and trustworthy as they are the examiners, operation conductors and law enforcers.

    His Majesty also highlighted issues that have yet been resolved; but instead they have become increasingly prevalent, such as smuggling activities.

    His Majesty queried on why the issue has persisted, while speculated that agencies may not have found an effective way in addressing it or the lack of expertise in devising a lasting solution.

    “Therefore, it is important for the country to have leaders or enforcement officers that are more focussed, determined and courageous. The correct attitude is needed to take care of the welfare of the people,” His Majesty said.

    The monarch stated that government agencies must not provide different treatment to different demographics by using the example of levy.

    The general public, His Majesty said, are imposed with full levies, while those with titles or dignitaries enjoy lower taxes.

    “There are times when the RCED imposes levy randomly on personal items brought into the country which causes confusion,” the monarch said.

    The monarch said, “Another issue is the breach of trust. An example is a recent incident of a custom officer misusing hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay overtime claims, mileage and shift allowances for RCED officers.

    “A number of officers have also been suspended from work due to the abuse of power,” His Majesty added.

    “Another humiliating problem is corruption.

    “In November 2021, the Internal Security Department (ISD) detained seven officers found to be part of a tax clearance syndicate and storing contraband items inside containers at Muara Port.

    “According to the latest report in April, corruption involving RCED officers at Muara Port continued to take place with these officers believed to have received bribes from foreign companies.

    “Bribery is used to speed up approval and container release. Even if they have been inspected, the process is not as thorough.

    “However, if these containers belong to locals, the inspection would have been stricter.

    “In September, the ISD detained a number of RCED officers and staff suspected to be involved in corruption. The case has been forwarded to the Anti-Corruption Bureau for further action.

    “These are only examples of what has taken place at Muara Port; there are more on land, with heavy vehicles carrying large containers,” His Majesty said.

    The monarch then questioned how these containers are inspected before release.

    The monarch’s knowledge is that there is an X-ray scanner for the inspection of vehicles

    Regarding corruption, His Majesty admitted that it is not an issue that can be easily tackled.

    “It is not enough for the enforcement team to make accusations or close a file that involves a dignitary. If a crime has been committed, then it is the duty of the authorities to let the law decide whether the accused is truly responsible,” His Majesty said.

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