BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The public prosecutor has indicated it will proffer more charges against two disgraced judicial officers accused of embezzling more than $7 million from the High Court’s bankruptcy office.
The defendants — Ramzidah Pehin Datu Kesuma Diraja Col (rtd) Hj Abdul Rahman and Hj Nabil Daraina Pehin Dato Ustaz Hj Badaruddin — are already facing 152 charges relating to criminal breach of trust, money laundering and corruption.
During a court hearing on Thursday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Aldila Hj Mohd Salleh said “a substantial number more” incidents of misappropriation of court funds are still being investigated by the police and Anti-Corruption Bureau.
Ramzidah, who was the deputy official receiver of the Bankruptcy Office at the time the incidents occurred, is already facing 146 charges of criminal breach of trust by a public servant for allegedly embezzling over $7 million from 41 debtor accounts between 2004 and 2017.
Both husband and wife are jointly facing four charges of money laundering and two charges under the Prevention of Corruption Act for possessing assets not corresponding to their income as public servants. Among the assets seized is a long list of luxury vehicles worth $3.2 million.
‘Far-reaching corruption case’
DPP Aldila said the case was “far-reaching” with document bundles still coming in from Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam. She added that statements need to be taken from court officers, bank personnel and legal representatives of various creditors. The DPP, who also heads the Attorney General Chamber’s Criminal Justice Division, asked the court for a one-month adjournment to assess any new evidence.
As the investigation is still ongoing, both defendants have yet to enter a plea for the charges laid against them.
The couple have also refused to provide further statements to the Anti-Corruption Bureau, the court heard, with DPP Aldila reminding defendants of their legal obligation to provide evidence under the Prevention of Corruption Act and Criminal Asset Recovery Order. She added that failure to do so may result in a criminal offence.
However, defence counsel Rozaiman Abdul Rahman argued that the defendants are within their legal rights to decline providing further statements and cannot be compelled to do so, saying they have the “privilege against self incrimination”.
“There are provisions under the Prevention of Corruption Act for accused persons [to give statements] but this is before they are charged. Under the Evidence Act once they are charged as court defendants, to litigate and contest charges are within the privilege of the defendants,” he said during court proceedings.
The defedants have also introduced an additional member to their defence team, engaging lawyer Sheikh Noordin as co-counsel to Rozaiman.
The couple are currently out on court bail but have had their passports impounded by the authorities.
Hj Nabil was a senior magistrate at the Bandar Seri Begawan Magistrates Court, and previously served as a deputy public prosecutor. His wife, Ramzidah, was a senior registrar at the High Court who presided over bankruptcy cases.
The duo were both suspended from active duty in January 2018.
The next court date is scheduled for September 3.