| Fadley Faisal |
THE plights of victims in bankruptcy cases over huge amount of dubious debts under the Receiving Order and the lavish lifestyles of a judiciary couple prompted complaints to be lodged to the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB).
Investigations were carried out into the case by the ACB in exercising its power under Section 12 of the Prevention of Corruption Act (Chapter 131) which allows it to launch a probe against any public officer who maintains a standard of living above or is in control of pecuniary resources or property disproportionate to his/her past or present emolument.
Based on the complaints, investigations by the ACB were initiated in January 2018 and the two were immediately suspended from their judicial positions.
The ACB yesterday released information on the developments of the case as a follow-up of the proceedings in court.
The bureau’s press release stated that based on the result of the investigations and the evidence gathered, 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 were charged in the Magistrate’s Court on July 23, 2018.
Ramzidah, before being suspended, was a senior registrar and the Deputy Official Receiver of the Bankruptcy Office, Supreme Court, State Judiciary Department of Brunei Darussalam and her husband Haji Nabil Daraina, a senior magistrate of the State Judiciary Department of Brunei Darussalam.
Both defendants face one charge of possession of unexplained properties under Section 12(1) (b) of the Prevention of Corruption Act (Chapter 131) whereby they were both found to be in control of properties namely luxury cars, which are disproportionate to their present or past emoluments.
Ramzidah is also alleged to be in possession of eight luxury cars amounting BND1.4 million, including a Mercedes Benz CLS 63 AMG Coupe Sports Package and Porsche Macan Turbo.
She was also charged with the possession of a Range Rover Sport 5.0 S/C Autobiography valued at GBP58,000.
Haji Nabil Daraina, on the other hand, is alleged to be in control of 12 luxury cars amounting to BND1.8 million, including a Mercedes Benz AMG GT S and a Nissan GTR Premium.
In her capacity as the Deputy Official Receiver, Ramzidah was charged for criminal breach of trust (CBT) under Section 409 of the Penal Code (Chapter 22) which carries a maximum penalty of imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years and a fine.
She is alleged to have committed the offences of CBT from 2004 to 2017, involving the siphoning of money collected from 41 debtor accounts in bankruptcy cases amounting to BND7 million.
Both defendants were also charged with offences of money laundering under Section 3 of the Criminal Asset Recovery Order (CARO) 2012.
Both defendants have also allegedly deposited amounts representing proceeds of crime derived from the alleged CBT from the Official Receiver’s bank account to their own personal joint account amounting to two separate transfers of BND300,000 and BND200,000.
The couple is also charged with using BND207,800 as partial payment for the purchase of a Porsche 911 Carrera GTS car and using BND93,000 to make partial payment for the purchase of a Mercedes Benz AMG GT RHD car.
The offence of money laundering carries a maximum penalty of a fine not exceeding BND500,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years or both.
Under the Criminal Procedure Code (Chapter 7), the offences committed are bailable offences.
Both the accused have been released on court bail set at BND100,000 or two local sureties for each defendant.
The court also ordered for their passports to be impounded by the Director of the ACB.
On August 2, 2018, both defendants were brought to court again and at that point they were represented by lawyer Rozaiman Abdul Rahman.
In light of the substantial number of documents which the ACB received from the relevant institutions, the prosecution applied for a month’s adjournment to assess the new evidence received by the bureau.
On September 3, 2018 in the Magistrate’s Court, the prosecution pressed against the defendants further charges of money laundering under Section 3(1) (a) of the Criminal Asset Recovery Order 2012 in relation to the deposit of BND1 million into their joint accounts on five different occasions.
The defendants also engaged another counsel Sheikh Noordin Sheikh Mohammad for their defence.
On the same day, the case against the defendants was remitted to the High Court and heard before Chief Justice Dato Paduka Steven Chong.
Both the accused pleaded not guilty to all charges against them.
The prosecution subsequently applied for a pre-trial conference in order to allow both the prosecution and defence counsels to address issues pertaining to the case prior to the trial of the case. The Chief Justice ordered for the pre-trial conference to be held on October 16, 2018.
On November 29, 2018, the Chief Justice once again heard the defendants’ case.
Lawyer Sheikh Noordin informed the court that the defendants discharged their first counsel Rozaiman Abdul Rahman.
The defence counsel then indicated that the defendants intend to hire a Queen’s Counsel to lead the defence team in their upcoming trial.
Since September 2018, there have been four pre-trial conferences.
At the last pre-trial conference, the prosecution team informed the court that they were ready to proceed with the trial fixed to begin on February 4, 2019.
The defence counsel applied for the trial to be adjourned until August 2019 in order to allow them to formally engage a foreign counsel.
In reply, the prosecution objected to the long adjournment as it is in the public interest for the trial to proceed and conclude in a timely manner.
Having heard the application and submission by both parties, the court set the trial to run from March 4 to 30, 2019.