Trial Case against Two Former Judicial Officers

Four witnesses from the Anti-Corruption Bureau, ACB, continued to give evidence in the trial against Ramzidah binti Pehin Datu Kesuma Diraja Retired Colonel Hj Abdul Rahman and Hj Nabil Daraina bin Pehin Udana Khatib Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Hj Awg Badaruddin in the High Court yesterday. An officer from the ACB gave evidence of taking photographs during the search on the Defendants' house on 8th March 2018. She had also taken photographs of 456 branded goods consisting of handbags, wallets, watches, shoes and accessories.

An Assistant Special Investigator was instructed to be the investigating officer for the case against the First Defendant. She, together with other officers, analysed the documents seized at the First Defendant's office and found that there were cash withdrawals made in the BIBD Official Receiver's, O.R accounts under the First Defendant's name. These were based on the account bank books, carbon copies cash withdrawals and letters from Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam, BIBD, stating that there have been cash withdrawals made.

On 8th January 2018, the ACB officers found a locked bag containing bankruptcy files. According to investigations, 15 out of 19 bankruptcy files had cash withdrawals made by the First Defendant.

Further investigations into the bankruptcy cases under the First Defendant's name was carried out and at the same time, enquiries were made to the local banks. To assist with investigations, BIBD submitted 608 original cash withdrawal slips for transactions made by the First Defendant. These slips totalled to a withdrawal amount of $15,750,292.24 from 255 OR accounts between 18th November 2004 until 5th December 2017.

Having looked into the account statements, there were three other dates when withdrawals were made but no original cash withdrawal slips were found by BIBD.

A folder containing letters were found in the First Defendant's office table drawers which were forced open on 10th January 2018. The witness examined the letters and found that there were letters addressed to the Standard Chartered Bank, SCB, and Maybank to inform the banks that the Court will open another O.R account for the purpose of collecting higher dividends. However, the accounts at SCB and Maybank were still to be maintained. The money accumulated in those accounts were to be issued in cheque for the opening of a second account.

Attached to these letters are copies undated letters to BIBD for the opening of new O.R's accounts stating that the letters included the cheques to be deposited into the accounts. These letters were signed by the First Defendant.

From these documents, the investigating officer found that the First Defendant had opened 2 O.R accounts for 18 debtors. The second account was opened in BIBD. The pattern seen from studying the BIBD bank account statements was not long after the OR account was opened with the cheques to be deposited, the First Defendant would withdraw the cash from the second OR account.

One of the accounts affected involve a cheque issued from SCB in the amount of $504,557.51 which was deposited into a new O.R account on 13th October 2015. On 1st December 2015, the First Defendant withdrew $503,000.

The witness's investigation did not show that the cash withdrawn from the 18 accounts were used to make dividend payments.

Investigations into an Assistant OR at the Bankruptcy Unit of the OR Chambers led to the discovery that the First Defendant would make annotations such as "IN FD" or "FD" on several bank letters on the Judicial Case Management System, JCMS. These annotations show that the cash withdrawn has been deposited into Fixed Deposit Accounts, FDA. After discovering 27 letters containing such annotations, the investigating officer enquired with the local banks as to the existence of FDAs under the First Defendant's name. The OR Chambers also submitted letters from some local banks regarding this issue. No such FDAs were found under the First Defendant's name at SCB; Baiduri Bank; BIBD; Maybank; Tabung Amanah Islam Brunei, TAIB; United Overseas Bank Limited, UOB; RHB Bank Berhad and BIBD At-Tamwil Berhad.

Between April 2018 until December 2018, a total of 234 Judgment Debtors, JD, have been contacted to assist in investigations. 19 of them have passed away but 4 of them have been represented by their family members to assist in investigations. None of these JDs have asked the DOR to withdraw cash on their behalf or received cash from the OR.

One of the JDs informed the ACB officer that he has made full payment for his debts by cash of $35,000 on 19th April 2017 but his Receiving Order has not been rescinded. Looking into the JD's bank account, no cash deposits were made.

For investigations, CCTV recording at the BIBD Main Branch has been requested from BIBD. The recording received in June 2018 contains a recording on 5th December 2017 during which the First Defendant was standing at the cashier's counter for cash withdrawal transactions. Based on the evidence, a cash withdrawal of $442,000 from 7 OR accounts were made by the First Defendant on that date.

In August 2018, ACB enquired with judgment creditors through their respective law firms regarding the status of their claims. Out of the replies received and from checking from the documents provided by the OR's Chambers, the investigating officer maintains that only 12 cases had dividend payments made through cheques and bank transfers only.

The investigating officer concluded her evidence by stating that dividends could have been declared if not for the cash withdrawals made by the First Defendant. As an example, a JD had a debt of $115,508.87 but between 2011 and 2016, the First Defendant withdrew a total of $172,000.

Jonathan Caplan QC will continue with the examination-in-chief of the investigating officer continue on 10th October at 9 in the morning.

Source: Radio Television Brunei

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