Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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Brunei Town

Public servants acquitted from graft charges

Fadley Faisal

Zamri bin Haji Jaludin and Pengiran Baharudin bin Pengiran Haji Md Tahir were acquitted yesterday by Judicial Commissioner Edward Timothy Starbuck Woolley from a remaining charge for accepting BND90 from a motor workshop.

Both the defendants together with Muhammad Rifai’e bin Zaini were planning inspectors with the Town and Country Planning Department who on August 30, 2011 conducted an inspection on a car dealer workshop.

Muhammad Rifai’e was not charged for any offence but became a prosecution witness.

Zamri and Pengiran Baharuddin were initially charged under section 6 of the Prevention of Corruption Act for acting in furtherance of their common intention in accepting the BND90 as an inducement for not carrying out a proper inspection of the workshop and under Section 165 of the Penal Code for accepting the BND90 without any or adequate consideration.

Magistrate Hazarena Pehin Orang Kaya Setia Jaya Dato Paduka Haji Hurairah presided over the trial and acquitted both defendants of the Prevention of Corruption charge but convicted them for the second charge under Section 165 of the Penal Code.

On July 14, 2020 she handed a sentence to each of them to seven months’ imprisonment but allowed the sentence to stay pending appeal.

The defendants were represented by defence counsel Yusof Halim of Messrs Yusof Halim & Partners at trial while Jauinah Haji Kula acted for the prosecution.

The defendants appealed against the conviction and the appeal was heard on March 7 via online with the judge in Australia while parties were in separate locations in the Sultanate.

The appeal was conducted for the appellants by counsels Anlan Hee and Lim Li Chyi of Messrs Yusof Halim & Partners while Prosecutor Shamsuddin Haji Kamaluddin acted for the respondent. It was not disputed that the appellants together with Muhammad Rifa’ie, who were inspectors from the Town and Country Planning Department, conducted an inspection of the car dealer workshop on August 30, 2011.

A question of the measurements of an awning in the workshop was raised. An employee of the workshop told the Town and Country Planning officers that the workshop had approval for the awning. She then contacted her employer, who was not on the premises and was instructed to give BND90 to the three planning officers.

She placed the BND90 in an envelope and handed it to Zamri who took it believing that it was the written approval for the awning.

He placed the envelope into the case file and made no attempt to hide it.

The three planning officers then moved to inspect another car distributor workshop where they conducted an inspection. Upon completing the inspection and before handing over the case file to Pengiran Baharuddin, Zamri opened the envelope and discovered BND90 inside it.

He kept BND50 and gave the balance to Pengiran Baharuddin who shared it with Muhammad Rifa’ie. Pengiran Baharuddin was not told where the money was from.

Justice Woolley found that “there is no evidence here of any arrangement or agreement at all before or after the discovery by (Zamri) of the contents of the envelope” and that the prosecution had failed to prove every element of the charge against the defendants.

Justice Woolley further added “…in respect of (Pengiran Baharuddin), l am far from satisfied that it has been proven beyond reasonable doubt that he knew where the money came from and that for that reason alone the charge against him cannot stand”.

The boss of the car dealer in a separate action, pleaded guilty to giving the BND90 to the planning officers and was fined BND10,000.