Customs officer in oil smuggling graft case sentenced tomorrow

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A ROYAL Customs and Excise officer will be sentenced tomorrow after the defendant was found guilty for accepting $400 in gratification from a fuel smuggler over six years ago.

In delivering her verdict yesterday, Magistrate Hazarena POKSJ DP Hj Hurairah relied on the evidence of Kan Tet Hiong, a known fuel smuggler, who talked about various aspects of his relationship with the defendant, Hj Mazlan Hj Shahbuddin.

Kan spoke of the detained Land Cruiser that Hj Mazlan purportedly helped release back to him; buying a Toyota Corolla; storing fuel into drums at the defendant’s late father’s house; and purchasing two Ford Rangers under the name of Hj Mazlan’s brother.

The magistrate said she does not believe Kan was making up his evidence and went on to say that she did not find any evidence to suggest that the evidence provided by Kan is incorrect.

She said Hj Mazlan was familiar enough with Kan to be fully aware of the latter’s fuel smuggling activities. She added that, as a customs officer, Hj Mazlan should have avoided any association with Kan but the defendant continued to befriend him.

“I am satisfied that Kan was more than an acquaintance to Hj Mazlan,” said the magistrate. The court said that the fact that Kan was confident in carrying out his fuel smuggling activities for nearly two years suggested that Kan was in fact offering bribes to various customs officers, including Hj Mazlan. The court also accepted a video recording by Kan showing Teoh, an anti-corruption officer with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission under the guise of a fuel smuggler, handing over $400 to Hj Mazlan when they met on January 19, 2009.

From the video, the court noted that there was no motion of movement to suggest that money was handed back by Hj Mazlan to Kan and there was also no hesitation or uneasiness from Hj Mazlan when he accepted the $400.

“Due to the fact that Hj Mazlan was a customs officer who had knowledge of Kan’s fuel smuggling activities, I am satisfied that it was in fact Hj Mazlan who was assisting Kan to smuggle fuel across the Burnei-Muara border. I am satisfied that the $400 was taken by Hj Mazlan in connection with Kan’s fuel smuggling activities,” said the court.

The magistrate did not accept Hj Mazlan’s evidence that the defendant’s meeting between Kan and Teoh was for the purpose of receiving payment for the hire-purchase of two Ford Rangers. The court said the defendant had contradicted himself when he said that the hire-purchase instalment was paid directly to the bank and the defendant had not sufficiently explained why on January 19, 2009, the money had to be paid to him. Furthermore, if the intention for the meeting was to collect payment, the money should have been handed over by Kan and not by Teoh, a person whom Mazlan did not know and was only introduced to him as a “fuel smuggler”.

She said that there was no explanation why the defendant accepted the money from Teoh instead of Kan and there was no document to suggest that the hire-purchase was $400. “It does not make sense why Hj Mazlan gave evidence to say that he handed the money back to Kan if the true purpose of the meeting was to pay for the Ford Rangers as Hj Mazlan would have expected to take the money in order to pay the arrears,” said the magistrate.

“I find that the money was given in exchange for Kan’s fuel smuggling activities, that Hj Mazlan accepted the $400 corruptly,” said the magistrate. The defendant, who has served with the Customs and Excise Department since 1987, is facing a fine of $30,000 and imprisonment of seven years for the graft charge. Hj Mazlan is also facing up to seven years and an unspecified amount in fines for the charge under Section 165 of the Penal Code which forbids public servants from accepting valuable things from any persons with connection to their official function. Following the verdict yesterday, the magistrate extended Hj Mazlan’s $5,000 court bail pending the sentencing tomorrow.

The Brunei Times