The Bandar Seri Begawan High Court has sentenced to 10 years imprisonment to Ramzidah binti Pehin Datu Kesuma Diraja Retired Colonel Hj Abdul Rahman for 15 criminal breach of trust offences and 10 money laundering offences. While her husband, Hj Nabil Daraina bin Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Hj Awg Badaruddin was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment for 6 money laundering offences. The Honourable Justice Gareth Lugar- Mawson imposed imprisonment sentences at the High Court, yesterday.
The First Defendant was convicted for criminal breach of trust offences, and both were also convicted for money laundering offences on Wednesday.
Jonathan Caplan QC who appeared on behalf of the Prosecution highlighted the aggravating factors in this case. The criminal breach of trust committed by the First Defendant in her judicial capacity were very serious offences. The offences were committed over a long period of 14 years between 2004 and 2017. He also emphasized that the 15.75 million dollars misappropriated is a significantly large amount and about 6 million dollars still remains untraced during investigations.
On the other hand, the offences of money laundering were committed by the Second Defendant 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.
In response, Simon Farrell QC submitted factors to mitigate the Defendants' sentence. He said that these 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.
The Second Defendant was a criminal judge and prosecutor. Being held in prison, he is placed with people who he himself have put in there. His counsel highlighted that he needs to be protected and asked for either a community service in lieu of imprisonment sentence or a short imprisonment sentence for the Second Defendant.
In passing sentence, Justice Lugar-Mawson commented that it was impossible to find a more egregious kind of criminal breach of trust than that which was committed by the First Defendant whether in Brunei Darussalam or in any other country. For 14 years, the First Defendant 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 Court had not doubt that the Second Defendant 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.
Both the 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 Judiciary Department and their status in society will protect them but the Judge stated that they were wrong to assume that. Though they are both of previous good characters, these had no effect on their sentences.
For each of the criminal breach of trust offences and money laundering offence, the Court imposed the maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment on the First Defendant. The Court ordered for the sentence to be served concurrently and in effect, will serve a total of 10 years' imprisonment.
For the each of the 6 offences of money laundering which the Second Defendant was convicted of, he was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment. The sentences were also ordered to be served concurrently and in effect, he will serve a total of 5 years imprisonment.
Simon 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 this application. Judge 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 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 $1 million against the First Defendant and $500,000 against the Second Defendant. This matter will be heard on a later day. In the event that they do not comply with the order to pay cost, an additional in default sentence of imprisonment will be imposed.
The Prosecution has filed a notice for a restraining order under the Criminal Asset Recovery Order in respect of 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 will also apply a benefit recovery order in respect of the monies which have not been traced. These applications will be heard in chambers in February 2020.
Jonathan Caplan QC and Deputy Public Prosecutors Hjh Suhana Hj Sudin, Hjh Suriana Hj Radin, Dk Didi- Nuraza Pg Hj Abdul Latiff and Muhammad Qamarul Affyian bin Abdul Rahman appeared for the Public Prosecutor.
Simon Farrell, QC and Sheikh Noordin Sheikh Mohammad, appeared for the defendants.
Source: Radio Television Brunei