BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Two former judicial officials accused of embezzling more than $7 million from the High Court’s Bankruptcy Office have indicated they will hire Queen’s Counsel to represent them during trial.

The defandants — Ramzidah Pehin Datu Kesuma Diraja Col (rtd) Hj Abdul Rahman and her husband Hj Nabil Daraina Pehin Dato Ustaz Hj Badaruddin — appeared before the High Court on Thursday to apply to discharge one of their attorneys, Rozaiman Abdul Rahman.

The couple’s remaining defence lawyer, Sheikh Noordin, told the court that his clients were in the process of engaging Queen’s Counsel to defend them in an upcoming trial.

Queen’s Counsel — lawyers in the British legal system recognised for exceptional merit and contribution to the legal profession — have been engaged by both prosecution and defence in some of Brunei’s most high-profile cases, including the corruption trial of the former development minister and a cash-for-tenders scandal which saw the jailing of eight Brunei Shell Petroleum employees.

Ramzidah, who was formerly the deputy official receiver of the Bankruptcy Office, has been indicted on 146 charges of criminal breach of trust by a public servant, for allegedly misappropriating over $7 million from 41 debtor accounts between 2004 and 2017.

Both Ramzidah and husband Hj Nabil, who was formerly a senior magistrate, jointly face nine charges of money laundering, with the prosecution alleging that transfers of $300,000 and $200,000 were made from the Official Receiver’s bank account to their own personal joint account on at least two occasions.

The duo also face a further 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.

The defendants have pleaded not guilty to all 157 charges brought against them. A trial is expected in the new year.