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Brunei - Corruption

The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) strives to ensure a corruption-free public service. Corrupt practices are punishable under the Prevention of Corruption Act. The Act also applies to Brunei citizens abroad. There are perceptions that corruption in the private sector is higher compared to the public sector, which has prompted the ACB to focus on the private sector, seeing that the sector plays a critical role in Bruneis economic diversification. In the Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2011, Brunei is ranked 44th out of 183 countries, and 2nd in ASEAN, with a slight improvement in its CPI points 5.2 out of 10 compared to its previous score of 5.5.

The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, and the government generally implemented these laws effectively; however, officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. Government officials were not subject to financial disclosure reports.

Six out of the twenty-four Brunei Custom officials suspended from duty in early 2009 for their alleged part in a fuel smuggling racket, were charged with accepting bribes between BND41 to BND 2, 600 to assist a fuel smuggling racket. Each defendant faces a charge of 'neglect' for every charge of graft made against them. Defendants were out on bail and the trial was adjourned until mid January, 2010. Another Government of Brunei (GoB) case involved a career diplomat, Haji Yakib Hj Jumat, arrested by Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on December 2006. He was brought to trial in September 2009. He was charged with twenty counts of corruption involving approximately BND 55,000 which he allegedly obtained from various Indonesian labor agents in return for issuing hundreds of work visas while he was Third Secretary the Brunei Embassy's Consular section in Jakarta in 2006. He was currently on a B$10,000 bail. Trial was adjourned until January 11, 2010. The defendants in both cases were charged under the Section 6 (a) of the Prevention of Corruption Act (Chapter 131) and Section 165 of the Penal Code (Chapter 22) where the former incurs a fine of BND$30,000 and imprisonment of seven years and the latter carries a jail term of up to seven years and a fine, determined by the court, per offense.

A corruption case was successful prosecuted against a Chief Technical Assistant at the Public Works Department, Pg Hj Tengah bin Pg Hj Tajuddin was found guilty for accepting offer of a bribe of BND2000. In an ironic twist, he was only paid BND200 on April 2005 as an inducement to expedite an inspection on structural works on a government project. His seven year sentence started on December 3, 2009.

Brunei's media and public followed the ongoing corruption case involving ex-Minister of Development, Pengiran Dr. Ismail, and prominent Brunei businessman Wong Tim Kai. Both defendants faced eleven charges; three charges under the Prevention of Corruption Act and eight charges under the Penal Code. Pg Dr Ismail is being charged with accepting graft in the form of a house, land, and cash transferred into the defendant's account. The alleged corruption took place between 1994 - 1997, while Ismail was the Minister of Development as well as the Istana Project Supervisor. It alleged several of the projects in question were funded by Prince Jefri, who was the then Minister of Finance. According to expert witness from Hong Kong, Roger Thomas Best, the source of funds used to pay for three projects of Mr. Wong's company, Ted Sdn.Bhd, were a Citibank account number '019' in the name of DPD Jefri Bolkiah. The account was controlled by the Brunei Investment Agency (BIA), under the Ministry of Finance.

The very lengthy trial had been ongoing since 2005 and had seen twenty seven witnesses giving evidence for the prosecution and the production of over 2,000 documentary exhibits. The trial had been put on hold several times due to the continued ill health of the former chief justice who was assigned as the trial judge, and the untimely death of Christopher Fernando, counsel for the former minister, in January 2008. The trial resumed in September with twenty six witnesses giving evidence including prominent Chinese businessman Pehin Dato Paduka Goh King Chin who is a member of Legislative Council and Dato Paduka Rashid Rahman, former Director of Roads and who is now the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Development. On September 30 2009, a warrant of arrest was issued for Wong, who apparently absconded. The trial against Wong continued in abstentia.

In February 2010, the former government minister accused of corruption in awarding government projects was sentenced to seven years in prison and ordered to pay 90 percent of the prosecution costs, which amounted to approximately BN$523,900 ($403,000) and restitution to the government. The total amount he received in gratuities was BN$4.2 million ($3.2 million). The former ministers alleged partner was sentenced in absentia to seven years in prison, and an arrest warrant was issued. If captured, he would also be liable for 10 percent of the prosecution costs, amounting to BN$55,875 ($42,980).

As of May 2009, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) had opened 70 investigation out of which 57 were completed and 48 sent to the Attorney General Chambers (AGC) for prosecution. This is in comparison to 59 investigations opened, 41 completed and 17 were sent to AGC for prosecution in 2008. This reflects the growing confidence of the ACB and well as the public in reporting possible corruption, especially within the public sector, through the ACB's website, hotlines, and even social media sites, like Facebook.

Since its inception in 1982, ACB's main focus was to ensure a corruption free Bruneian government. The Director of Anti-Corruption Bureau reports directly to the Sultan. In June 2009, Brunei ranked second among ASEAN nations, on the Global Corruption Barometer scoring 2.2 (with 5 signifies extremely corrupt) and ranked third in terms of effectiveness in government action against corruption. However Brunei's private sector is perceived to be the most affected by corruption. ACB slowly is beginning to shift their focus to private sector corruption because of the private sector critical role in the diversification of Brunei's economy. The ACB plans to extend their jurisdiction to those private sector firms with significant ties to the GoB.

To further boost public confidence in the public sector, the ACB considered moving forward with implementation of the Asset Declaration initiative as recommended by the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). The UNCAC requires public servants to declare their assets in order to improve transparency. The ACB also is increasing their public education anti-graft campaigns with a focus on Brunei's schools. The coverage of the trials in the media as well as the increasing prosecution of cases is a good sign that the ACB is becoming a more respected institution. Support from the highest reaches of the Brunei government will be critical to ensuring the ACB is able to fully and successful implement its ongoing anti-corruption efforts. As noted, Brunei enjoy high marks in regards to anti corruption efforts and a relative limited amount of corruption with the GoB. However, the lengthy trial periods for corruption cases can undermine the overall confidence in Brunei's anti-corruption programs.





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Page last modified: 20-03-2013 16:46:41 ZULU