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Trial of judicial couple continues (2019)

BY Fadley Faisal

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 continued in the High Court on Thursday with documents obtained through the investigations on Ramzidah produced in court.

Simon Farrell QC then cross-examined the Assistant Investigating Officer tasked with conducting the investigations on Ramzidah.

Some 255 bankruptcy files were seized for the purpose of investigations in batches. These files have not been copied and no index of the contents of the files were recorded. The defence counsel suggested to this witness from Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) that no other detailed analysis was carried out on the files apart from the officers from the Bankruptcy Unit who prepared the Proof of Debt. The witness maintained that all the files were checked by her and the investigating team though no records were made.

A statement from Ramzidah was recorded by ACB in March 2018 but the investigating officer is not aware of the contents of the statement as it was related to a money laundering investigation, separate from hers. Another statement was recorded by the Royal Brunei Police Force (RBPF) in July 2018 but the contents were also not within the witness’ knowledge.

The witness explained that after documents pertaining to the cash withdrawals were collected, the ACB did call Ramzidah to give a statement but she refused. Simon Farrell QC explained that she refused because she was already charged in court by the time she was required to give statement.

Letters stating to the effect that no fixed deposit accounts (FDAs) exist under Ramzidah’s name are being relied on by the prosecution as evidence. These documents are questioned by the defence counsel. In some instances, no officers from the banks were called for investigations or called by the prosecution as witnesses to confirm its contents.

A letter from Bank A was also produced by the defence during the cross-examination of the investigating officer. No enquiries were made by the ACB to Bank A and Bank B as both have ceased their operations in Brunei. The witness explained that the investigations were on active FDAs in local banks.

In any case, those accounts would have been transferred to other banks before ceasing operations.

The prosecution continued to call the investigating officer responsible for the investigations into the money laundering offences. The Chief Special Investigator is the Head of the Special Financial Investigation Division at ACB. The money laundering investigations were opened after the investigations found that both the defendants were in control of property which is disproportionate to his and her present and past emoluments. The witness conducted a forensic accounting investigation on the source of the properties in question.

Between 2003 to 2017, Ramzidah received a total salary of BND922,146.92 while Haji Nabil Daraina received BND958,921.52.

Ramzidah has one loan liability with Bank C taken in 2002 for BND266,000 which expires in 2028. The monthly loan payment is BND2,948.24. Haji Nabil Daraina also has one loan liability with Bank C taken in 2003 for BND273,000 expiring in 2027. The monthly loan payment is BND3,006.53. Investigations revealed that the loan was to settle existing loan of BND228,386.90 at Bank D and Bank E as well as Bank F for BND23,100. Haji Nabil Daraina also has two hire purchase loan for two vehicles paid by cash monthly.

In the statutory declaration of their assets, the defendants disclosed several source of incomes including car sales between 2011 until 2016 for a total of BND701,000 in total but these are not supported by any documents. Ramzidah also stated that she receives an average of BND3,000 monthly from her parents but this is also unsupported. Haji Nabil Daraina’s declaration of receiving an average of BND3,000 monthly is supported by cheque deposit receipts gathered during investigations. Between 2013-2017 he received BND189,823 from his father.

Ramzidah claimed that between 2000 to 2015, she received an investment returns in the amount of BND2.5 million from her late brother who resided in Thailand but this was unsupported by any documents. Administration of estates in the name of her late brother were granted to Ramzidah’s parents and the total amount claimed were only BND253,176.87.

Ramzidah also declared that she received cash gifts from 2011 to 2017 a total of BND5 million from a Malaysian lady for assisting in confidential agreement. With the assistance of ACB’s counterpart in Malaysia, this matter was investigated and the Malaysian lady has denied giving such gift and also further denied knowing who the defendants are.

Investigation into the cars purchased revealed that the defendants have frequently paid to purchase vehicles using large amounts of cash including BND10,000 notes. The total purchased price of 14 cars registered under Ramzidah is BND1,836,417. Meanwhile, total purchase price for six cars registered under Haji Nabil Daraina is BND1,288,215. Further analysis on the cash payments reveal that the BND10,000 notes used to make payments are similar to the ones withdrawn by Ramzidah from official receiver’s Bank G account.

The witness conducted an analysis on the usage of BND10,000 based on the reports submitted to the Autoriti Monetari Brunei Darussalam (AMBD) and cash transaction reports from several local banks. She found nine transactions of cash deposits using the same BND10,000 which Ramzidah withdrew from the OR accounts in Bank G.

Justice Gareth John Lugar-Mawson adjourned the hearing for the investigating officer to continue giving evidence of her financial analysis on October 14.

Jonathan Caplan QC 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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