QC to lead prosecution team

|     Fadley Faisal     |

IN THE High Court yesterday, the Public Prosecutor introduced their acquisition of Queen’s Counsel (QC) Jonathan Caplan to lead their case against suspended judiciary officers Ramzidah binti Pehin Datu Kesuma Diraja Colonel (Rtd) Haji Abdul Rahman and Haji Nabil Daraina bin Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Haji Awang Badaruddin.

During yesterday’s mention, a number of matters were raised by both the prosecution and the defence, in preparation for the upcoming trial.

Caplan QC gave a brief history of the proceedings before Justice Gareth Lugar-Mawson, regarding the 146 charges of criminal breach of trust brought against first defendant Ramzidah, a Deputy Official Receiver of the Official Receiver’s Chambers; that she and the second defendant, Haji Nabil Daraina, a Senior Magistrate and Intermediate Court judge, were charged with four counts of money laundering; and that each of the defendants was charged separately for possession of unexplained property by a public servant.

Caplan QC also highlighted the prosecution’s case summary on the different stages of the alleged criminal conduct, which was extended to the Court and also the defence.

Firstly, according to the charges of criminal breach of trust, in between 2004 and 2017, the first defendant had made substantial cash withdrawals from a large number of judgment debtor accounts which she was supervising as Deputy Official Receiver, in the total sum of BND15.75 million.

The cash withdrawals were held in between 2004 and 2017 from a bank, where the judgement debtor accounts were opened and held. It will be the Prosecution’s case that the first defendant had no legitimate reason for making cash withdrawals from any of those accounts.

Secondly, both the first and second defendants dealt with the acquired cash in a number of ways that give rise to money laundering offences in making substantial cash deposits into their local joint account at another bank; by spending some of the cash on luxury items such as motor vehicles; and transferring some of the deposited monies abroad to their accounts in the United Kingdom (UK).

Caplan QC explained that these facts give rise to criminal breach of trust charges against the first defendant alone; money laundering charges against both defendants; and also charges against each defendant for the possession of unexplained property as public servants in relation to the bank balances, cars and other luxury items.

Caplan QC informed Justice Lugar-Mawson that the defence already has some documents such as cash withdrawal slips, the relevant cash deposit slips and a provisional witness list, and that they will also be examining the relevant bankruptcy files.

The Prosecution will be serving to the defence further documentation, which is as follows:

– In relation to the criminal breach of trust charges, a file with the cash withdrawal slips and passbooks of the judgement debtor accounts and – if there are no passbooks – the relevant parts of the judgement debtor accounts in question, and various other documents; and

– In relation to the money laundering charges, the cash deposit slips and their joint bank account statements showing the balances, documents showing the car purchases with cash, documents from the banks and car vendors reporting the BND10,000 denominations which have passed to them and from whom, showing that the defendants either deposited BND10,000 with particular numbers or used them to buy goods in a similar way.

It is the prosecution’s case that those bills and those numbers – or some of them – can be traced back to the BND10,000 that were given by the bank when the first defendant made cash withdrawals from the judgement debtor accounts.

Caplan QC further informed Justice Lugar-Mawson that it is proposed that the Prosecution call on witnesses in the following categories and order:

– The Official Receivers and Deputy Official Receivers from the Bankruptcy Unit, who can explain how judgement debtor accounts came into existence: how they are supervised, the duties of the Official Receivers in supervising the accounts, and whether or not cash is ever withdrawn from such accounts;

– Bank officers from the bank, where the cash withdrawals were made;

– Bank officers from the other bank where the cash deposits were made and where transfers were made abroad;

– Third-party witnesses such car salesmen; and

– Police and Anti-Corruption Bureau witnesses.

A new set of charges were pressed against the couple, and in explaining why the prosecution sought to add new charges, Caplan QC submitted that the original charges were 152 in total, with 146 of them being individual criminal breach of trust charges.

Caplan QC further submitted that section 153(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code provides that “when the accused is charged with criminal breach of trust or dishonest misappropriation of money, it shall be sufficient to specify the gross sum in respect of which the offence is alleged to have been committed and the dates between which the offence is alleged to have been committed, without specifying particular items or exact dates.

As such, what the Prosecution have done with the new charges is to set out for each year a gross sum for all the cash withdrawals in a given year, and the annex will explain how it is calculated.”

Caplan, QC submitted that the total amount allegedly misappropriated is BND15.75 million.

An application was made by the prosecution to vary the bail conditions, which the defence objected to.

Justice Lugar-Mawson, however, granted the Prosecution’s application and varied the conditions as follows:

– Both defendants are to report to the Investigating Officer at the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on the first day of each month; and

– For both defendants not to contact any of the prosecution witnesses.

The case is fixed for trial from March 4 to 30 in the High Court, before Justice Lugar-Mawson.

The prosecution, led by Jonathan Caplan QC – with Deputy Public Prosecutors Suhana binti Sudin, Suriana binti Radin, Dayangku Didi binti Pengiran Latiff and Affyian bin Abdul Rahman – will be working around evidence gathered by the ACB in their investigations leading up to the indictments of the couple.

The defence will be represented by Simon Henry Farrell QC and Sheikh Noordin.

The Supreme Court of Brunei Darussalam reminded the public that although proceedings are held in open court, photography or video recordings are not allowed in the courtrooms.

The public are also advised to abide by court etiquette when attending the proceedings.