Bandar Seri Begawan - A fuel smuggler's fate was decided by the Magistrate's Court in the capital yesterday as he was sentenced to six months' in jail.
Foo Chee Woon was also ordered by the court to pay prosecution costs amounting to B$8,749 within two months, failing which will attract an additional six months' imprisonment. The Mitsubishi Pajero with the modified fuel tank together with its fuel was ordered forfeited to the state.
Foo initially pleaded not guilty to a charge of attempting to export 118 litres of diesel fuel out of the country on April 26, 2012 but changed his plea to guilty midway through the prosecution trial when the prosecution was about to tender a list of fuel purchases he made nationwide on specific dates furnished by a Brunei Shell Marketing witness.
The prosecution, conducted by DPP Sharon Yeo, called a total of 10 out of 17 witnesses including an expert who had flown in from Japan to testify about the fuel tank's modification.
Mr Tatsuya Yokoi of Mitshubishi Motors Japan, who has about 23 years of experience with fuel tanks of Pajero vehicles, testified that he had examined the fuel tank of Foo's vehicle after the vehicle was seized and found that it had been modified.
Mr Yokoi stated that such modification which expands the fuel tank beyond its original capacity of 92 litres compromises the safety feature of the fuel tank as it allows very little air to be in the fuel tank and may result in an explosion in the event of a collision with another vehicle.
Senior Magistrate Muhammed Faisal bin PDJLDDSP Hj Kefli in determining sentence, took into account the guilty plea midway through the prosecution's case and also the defendant's mitigation.
However, the Senior Magistrate said he had to consider the public interest and added that if Mr Foo was remorseful he should have entered a guilty plea at the first instance.
The Senior Magistrate also stated that fuel smuggling has caused tremendous loss to Brunei Darussalam, loss in both government subsidy and natural resource to the nation.
Diesoline in Brunei Darussalam is subsidised at B$0.31 per litre, however the market rate is B$1.07 per litre. He said that the purpose of subsidy is for the use of the residents of Brunei Darussalam and Mr Foo had taken advantage of the subsidy and deprived ordinary citizens from enjoying that subsidy.
The fact that the fuel tank was modified to extend the original capacity shows an ill intention and increased the possibility of explosion that would have endangered the lives and safety of other road users.
--Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin