Judiciary couple receives jail time

Fadley Faisal

Justice Gareth John Lugar-Mawson handed a 10-year jail term to Ramzidah binti Pehin Datu Kesuma Diraja Colonel (Rtd) Haji Abdul Rahman while Haji Nabil Daraina bin Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Haji Awang Badaruddin received a five-year imprisonment term on sentencing the couple in the High Court yesterday.

Ramzidah, 46, was convicted for criminal breach of trust (CBT) offences, and she and her husband Haji Nabil Daraina, 47, were both also convicted for money laundering offences on Wednesday.

Jonathan Caplan, QC appearing on behalf of the prosecution yesterday highlighted the aggravating factors in the case.

He said that the CBT committed by Ramzidah in her judicial capacity are very serious offences. The offences were committed over a long period of 14 years between 2004 and 2017.

He also emphasised that the BND15.75 million misappropriated is a significantly large amount and about BND6 million still remains untraced.

“On the other hand, the offences of money laundering were committed by Haji Nabil Daraina in pursuant of a lavish lifestyle which he could have not afforded from his income as a judicial officer. He committed the crimes when he was an experienced judge in the criminal law and jurisdiction,” Caplan, QC added.

In response, for the couple, Simon Farrell, QC submitted factors to mitigate the defendants’ sentence.

He said the offences are no doubt grave as they were committed by judges which consequently reduced the public confidence in the justice system.

The proceedings have been profound. One of the greatest punishments for the defendants is the separation from their family.

Both defendants are reportedly on medication and not in good health.

He said Haji Nabil Daraina was a criminal judge and prosecutor. Being held in prison, he is placed with people whom he himself had put in there.

His counsel further highlighted that he needs to be protected and asked for either a community service in lieu of imprisonment sentence or a shorter imprisonment.

In passing sentence, Justice Lugar-Mawson said, “It was impossible to find a more egregious kind of criminal breach of trust than that which was committed by Ramzidah whether in Brunei Darussalam or in any other country.”

He said that over 14 years, Ramzidah took advantage of an imperfect system to unjustly enrich herself and her family with expensive cars and designer handbags.

“Because of her thieving, over 200 judgment debtors were unable to discharge their debts. It is difficult to see how they and the judgment creditors can ever be compensated,” the Justice said.

The Court was also in no doubt that “Haji Nabil Daraina knew his wife was systematically milking the Official Receiver’s accounts and was more than happy to

share the lavish lifestyle her actions provided. He could have reported it but did not do so”.

The Justice said that both defendants threw away their chances of receiving a chance of reduction in their sentences when they chose to take the case to trial.

They thought that their position in the State Judiciary Department and their status in society would protect them but the Judge stated that they were wrong to assume that. Though they are both of previous good characters, these have no effect on their sentences.

For each of the criminal breach of trust offences, the Court imposed the maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment on Ramzidah and five years for each of the money laundering offences.

The Court ordered for the sentence to be served concurrently and in effect, Ramzidah will serve a total of 10 years’ imprisonment.

For each of the six offences of money laundering which Haji Nabil Daraina was convicted of, he was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment.

The sentences were also ordered to be served concurrently and in effect, he will serve a total of five years’ imprisonment. Farrell, QC applied for the sentences not to be served until the appeal is heard in the Court of Appeal because there are serious points of law to be taken in this case. However, the prosecution objected to this application. Justice Lugar-Mawson denied the application and ordered for the sentences to be served immediately.

No formal application has been made to lift the stay of proceedings in respect of the offences of possession of unexplained wealth under Section 12 of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The prosecution indicated that such application will be made at the point of appeal.

The prosecution has also indicated that it will apply for a small proportion of the prosecution’s cost to conduct this case in the amount of BND1 million against Ramzidah and BND500,000 against Haji Nabil Daraina. The costs will be dealt with on a later day.

In the event that they do not comply with the order to pay the costs, additional in default sentence of imprisonment will take place.

The prosecution has filed a notice for a restraining order under the Criminal Asset Recovery Order 2012 in respect to all the properties seized by the Anti-Corruption Bureau. The order is to prohibit those properties to be dissipated, taken or dealt with in any manner as they will be subject of a confiscation order.

The properties include 21 luxury cars and 456 luxury items such as watches, handbags, accessories and shoes.

The prosecution also indicated intentions to apply a benefit recovery order in respect of the monies which have not been traced. The applications will be heard in chambers in February 2020.

Caplan, QC represented the Public Prosecutor along with Deputy Public Prosecutors Hajah Suhana binti Haji Sudin, Hajah Suriana binti Haji Radin, Dayangku Didi-Nuraza binti Pengiran Haji Abdul Latiff and Muhammad Qamarul Affyian bin Abdul Rahman. The defendants were represented by Farrell, QC and Sheikh Noordin Sheikh Mohammad.