Cablegate: Brunei's Expanding Anti-Corruption Programs

DE RUEHBD #0006/01 0080407
R 080407Z JAN 10





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Brunei has seen a relative increase in corruption case
brought to trial as well as said trials receiving extensive media
coverage. Most cases involve Government of Brunei (GoB) employees
charged under the Prevention of Corruption Act. The GoB employees
range from a career diplomat receiving bribes in return for issuing
work visas to customs officials charged with assisting a fuel
smuggling racket. In addition, there is the ongoing high-profile
corruption trial involving a former Minister of Development with
alleged ties to Brunei's royal family. The result is the public is
beginning to trust Brunei's Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and
increasing reports of possible corruption to the ACB. The ACB has
increased anti-graft public education, focusing on the schools.
However, the ACB only now has started to shift its focus on
investigating corruption in the private sector and could still work
to increase public transparency for public servant activities and
finances. The slow timeframe of trials can hinder the
anti-corruption efforts. End Summary.

2. (SBU) 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 recently 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 are out on bail and the trial is adjourned
until mid January, 2010. Another Government of Brunei (GoB) case
involved a career diplomat, Haji Yakib Hj Jumat, arrested by 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 is currently on a B$10,000 bail. Trial has been 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.

3. (U)A recent 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.

--------------------------------------------- ---------
4. (SBU) Brunei's media and public continue to follow the ongoing
corruption case involving ex-Minister of Development, Pengiran Dr.
Ismail, and prominent Brunei businessman Wong Tim Kai. Both
defendants face 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.
5. (SBU) The very lengthy trial has been ongoing since 2005 and has
seen twenty seven witnesses giving evidence for the prosecution and
the production of over 2,000 documentary exhibits. The trial has
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 will
continue in abstention.

BANDAR SER 00000006 002 OF 002

6.(SBU) As of May 2009, ACB has 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.

7. (SBU) 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.

8) (SBU) To further boost public confidence in the public sector,
the ACB is considering 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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