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Judiciary couple trial: Evidence on designer bags, bankruptcy files presented (2019)

Branded goods consisting of handbags, wallets, watches, shoes and accessories allegedly found at the defendants’ house. PHOTO: ACB

BY Fadley Faisal

Four witnesses from the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) continued to give evidence in the trial against 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 in the High Court on Wednesday.

An officer from the ACB gave evidence of taking photographs during the search on the defendants’ house on March 8, 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 Ramzidah. Together with other officers, she analysed the documents seized at Ramzidah’s office and found that there were cash withdrawals made in the Bank A Official Receiver’s (OR) accounts under Ramzidah’s name.

These were based on the account bank books, carbon copies cash withdrawals and letters from Bank A stating that there were cash withdrawals made.

On January 8, 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 Ramzidah.

Further investigations into the bankruptcy cases under Ramzidah’s name were carried out, while at the same time, enquiries were made to the local banks.

To assist with investigations, Bank A submitted 608 original cash withdrawal slips for transactions made by Ramzidah. These slips totalled to a withdrawal amount of BND15,750,292.24 from 255 OR accounts between November 18, 2004, until December 5, 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 Bank A.

A folder containing letters were found in Ramzidah’s office table drawers which had been forced open on January 10, 2018. The witness examined the letters and found that they were addressed to Bank B and Bank C, to inform the banks that the Court would open another OR account for the purpose of collecting higher dividends.

However, the accounts at Bank B and Bank C were still to be maintained. The money accumulated in those accounts was to be issued in cheque for the opening of a second account.

Attached to these letters were copies of undated letters to Bank A for the opening of new OR accounts, stating that the letters included cheques to be deposited into the accounts. These letters were signed by Ramzidah.

From these documents, the investigating officer found that Ramzidah had opened two OR accounts for 18 debtors. The second account was opened in Bank A.

The pattern seen from studying the Bank A account statements was that not long after the OR account was opened with the cheques to be deposited, Ramzidah would withdraw the cash from the second OR account.

One of the accounts affected involve a cheque issued from Bank B for the amount of BND504,557.51, which was deposited into a new OR account on October 13, 2015. On December 1, 2015, Ramzidah withdrew BND503,000.

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

Investigations into an Assistant OR at the Bankruptcy Unit of the OR Chambers led to the discovery that Ramzidah 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 had been deposited into Fixed Deposit Accounts (FDAs).

After discovering 27 letters containing such annotations, the investigating officer enquired with the local banks as to the existence of FDAs under Ramzidah’s name. The OR Chambers also submitted letters from some local banks regarding this issue.

No such FDAs were found under Ramzidah’s name at Bank B, Bank D, Bank A, Bank C, Bank E, Bank F, Bank G and Bank H.

Between April and December 2018, 234 Judgement Debtors (JDs) were contacted to assist in investigations. Nineteen of them have since passed away but four have been represented by their family members to assist in investigations.

None of these JDs 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 had made full payment for his debts with BND35,000 in cash on April 19, 2017, but his Receiving Order was not rescinded. Looking into the JD’s bank account, no cash deposits were made.

For investigations, a CCTV recording was requested from Bank A. The recording received in June 2018 contains a recording from December 5, 2017, during which Ramzidah was standing at the cashier’s counter for cash withdrawal transactions.

Based on the evidence, cash withdrawals of BND442,000 from seven OR accounts were made by Ramzidah on that date.

In August 2018, ACB enquired with judgement creditors through their 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 the dividends could have been declared if not for the cash withdrawals made by Ramzidah.

As an example, a JD had a debt of BND115,508.87, but between 2011 and 2016, Ramzidah withdrew a total of BND172,000.

Jonathan Caplan, QC will continue with the examination-in-chief of the investigating officer today.

Justice Gareth John Lugar-Mawson presided over the trial.

Caplan and Deputy Public Prosecutors Hajah Suhana binti Haji Sudin, Hajah Suriana binti Haji Radin, Dayangku Didi-Nuraza binti Pengiran Haji Abdul Latiff and Muhammad Qamarul Affyian bin Abdul Rahman appeared for the Public Prosecutor.

Simon Farrell, QC and Sheikh Noordin Sheikh Mohammad represented the defendants.

-- Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

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