The Organized Crime Index | ENACT
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Brunei
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    Profile

    Brunei

    Capital

    Bandar Seri Begawan

    Gross domestic product (GDP)

    USD 14,006.57 million

    Income group

    High income

    Population

    445,373

    Area

    5,770 km²

    Geography type

    Coastal

    2.850.09

    Criminality score

    180th of 193 countries 0

    45th of 46 countries in Asia1

    11th of 11 countries in South-Eastern Asia0

    Criminal markets

    3.300.15

    An assessment of the value, prevalence and non-monetary impacts of a specific crime type.

    Human trafficking

    5.000.50

    Illicit activity involving coercion, deception, abduction or fraud for the purpose of exploitation, regardless of the victim’s consent.

    Human smuggling

    4.000.00

    Activities by an organized crime group involving the illegal entry, transit or residence of migrants for a financial or material benefit.

    Extortion & protection racketeering

    2.00 n/a

    Crimes linked to exerting control over a territory/market including as a mediator and/or requesting a benefit in exchange for protection.

    Arms trafficking

    2.500.00

    The sale, acquisition, movement, and diversion of arms, their parts and ammunition from legal to illegal commerce and/or across borders.

    Trade in counterfeit goods

    3.00 n/a

    The production, transport, storage and sale of goods that are fraudulently mislabeled or fraudulent imitations of registered brands.

    Illicit trade in excisable goods

    4.00 n/a

    The illicit transport, handling and sale of excise consumer goods despite a ban or outside a legal market. Excludes oil and counterfeits.

    Flora crimes

    3.000.00

    The illicit trade and possession of species covered by CITES convention, and other species protected under national law.

    Fauna crimes

    4.000.00

    The poaching, illicit trade in and possession of species covered by CITES and other species protected by national law. Includes IUU fishing.

    Non-renewable resource crimes

    2.000.00

    The illicit extraction, smuggling, mingling, bunkering or mining of natural resources and the illicit trade of such commodities.

    Heroin trade

    2.500.00

    The production, distribution and sale of heroin. Consumption of the drug is considered in determining the reach of the criminal market.

    Cocaine trade

    1.500.00

    The production, distribution and sale of cocaine and its derivatives. Consumption is considered in determining the reach of the market.

    Cannabis trade

    3.500.00

    The illicit cultivation, distribution and sale of cannabis oil, resin, herb or leaves. Consumption is used to determine the market's reach.

    Synthetic drug trade

    4.500.50

    The production, distribution and sale of synthetic drugs. Consumption is considered in determining the reach of the market.

    Cyber-dependent crimes

    4.00 n/a

    Organized crimes that rely solely on using information communications technology with the aim of obtaining a monetary/material benefit.

    Financial crimes

    4.00 n/a

    Organized crime that results in a monetary loss via financial fraud, embezzlement, misuse of funds, tax evasion and abusive tax avoidance.

    Criminal actors

    2.400.02

    An assessment of the impact and influence of a specific criminal actor type on society.

    Mafia-style groups

    1.000.00

    Clearly defined organized crime groups that usually have a known name, defined leadership, territorial control and identifiable membership.

    Criminal networks

    2.00-0.50

    Loose networks of criminal associates engaging in criminal activities who fail to meet the defining characteristics of mafia-style groups.

    State-embedded actors

    3.001.00

    Criminal actors that are embedded in, and act from within, the state’s apparatus.

    Foreign actors

    4.000.00

    State and/or non-state criminal actors operating outside their home country. Includes foreign nationals and diaspora groups.

    Private sector actors

    2.00 n/a

    Profit-seeking individuals/entities who own/control a part of the legal economy free from the state, that collaborate with criminal actors.

    4.580.00

    Resilience score

    107th of 193 countries -1

    20th of 46 countries in Asia0

    5th of 11 countries in South-Eastern Asia0

    Political leadership & governance

    4.000.00

    The State's role in responding to organized crime and its effectiveness. Strong political leadership/governance suggests higher resilience.

    Government transparency and accountability

    4.000.00

    The degree to which states have put oversight mechanisms in place to ensure against state collusion in illicit activities.

    International cooperation

    4.500.00

    A country's supranational structures and processes of interaction, policy making and concrete implementation to respond to organized crime.

    National policies and laws

    4.500.00

    A state's legal action and structures put in place to respond to organized crime.

    Judicial system and detention

    4.000.00

    Refers to a state’s judiciary’s power to effectively and independently enforce judgments on organized crime-related cases.

    Law enforcement

    5.500.50

    The state’s ability to investigate, gather intelligence, protect and enforce adherence to its rules and procedures against organized crime.

    Territorial integrity

    5.500.00

    The degree to which states are able to control their physical and cyber territory and infrastructure against organized criminal activities.

    Anti-money laundering

    5.500.00

    A state’s ability to implement measures to combat money laundering and other related threats to the integrity of its financial system.

    Economic regulatory capacity

    6.00-0.50

    The ability to control/manage the economy and regulate transactions (national and international) for trade to thrive within the rule of law.

    Victim and witness support

    3.00-0.50

    Assistance provided to victims of various forms of organized crime, including initiatives such as witness protection programs.

    Prevention

    5.000.50

    Refers to the existence of strategies, measures, resource allocation, programmes and processes that are aimed to inhibit organized crime.

    Non-state actors

    3.500.00

    The degree non-state actors are allowed to engage in OC responses and their roles in supporting State efforts/ as watchdogs to governments.

    4.58 2.40 3.30 4.58 2.40 3.30

    4.580.00

    Resilience score

    107th of 193 countries -1

    20th of 46 countries in Asia0

    5th of 11 countries in South-Eastern Asia0

    Political leadership & governance

    4.000.00

    The State's role in responding to organized crime and its effectiveness. Strong political leadership/governance suggests higher resilience.

    Government transparency and accountability

    4.000.00

    The degree to which states have put oversight mechanisms in place to ensure against state collusion in illicit activities.

    International cooperation

    4.500.00

    A country's supranational structures and processes of interaction, policy making and concrete implementation to respond to organized crime.

    National policies and laws

    4.500.00

    A state's legal action and structures put in place to respond to organized crime.

    Judicial system and detention

    4.000.00

    Refers to a state’s judiciary’s power to effectively and independently enforce judgments on organized crime-related cases.

    Law enforcement

    5.500.50

    The state’s ability to investigate, gather intelligence, protect and enforce adherence to its rules and procedures against organized crime.

    Territorial integrity

    5.500.00

    The degree to which states are able to control their physical and cyber territory and infrastructure against organized criminal activities.

    Anti-money laundering

    5.500.00

    A state’s ability to implement measures to combat money laundering and other related threats to the integrity of its financial system.

    Economic regulatory capacity

    6.00-0.50

    The ability to control/manage the economy and regulate transactions (national and international) for trade to thrive within the rule of law.

    Victim and witness support

    3.00-0.50

    Assistance provided to victims of various forms of organized crime, including initiatives such as witness protection programs.

    Prevention

    5.000.50

    Refers to the existence of strategies, measures, resource allocation, programmes and processes that are aimed to inhibit organized crime.

    Non-state actors

    3.500.00

    The degree non-state actors are allowed to engage in OC responses and their roles in supporting State efforts/ as watchdogs to governments.

    Analysis

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    People

    To a moderate extent, Brunei is both a transit and destination country for human trafficking, with women who migrate for domestic work on social visit passes or tourist visas being particularly vulnerable. Foreign workers, some of whom have entered the country irregularly, are often targeted by human traffickers, who force their victims into exploitative situations using tactics such as withholding wages, switching labour contracts, confiscating passports or trapping workers in involuntary servitude through physical abuse. A large portion of the migrant workers subject to trafficking crimes come from Indonesia, Philippines, Bangladesh and China. There have also been reports of high-profile political figures engaging in sexual exploitation. Despite being a prominent criminal market in the country, the size and value of human trafficking in Brunei are relatively small compared to other countries in the region.

    The distinction between human smuggling and human trafficking is unclear in Brunei, making it difficult to accurately estimate the size and reach of the human smuggling market. Those who perpetrate human smuggling crimes face hefty fines and imprisonment, but law enforcement often criminalizes the smuggled people rather than the perpetrators. There is little information on the size of the market for extortion and protection racketeering in Brunei but, despite some episodic cases, mainly related to human trafficking activities, these practices do not seem to be systemic in the country.

    Trade

    Arms trafficking in Brunei does not appear to be a significant issue, and the majority of trade is internal rather than transnational, consisting mostly of crude, handcrafted weapons typically used by poachers. The government prohibits all civilian possession of firearms, including for hunting or personal protection. Violent crime remains low, which may reflect patterns within this criminal market.

    The trade of counterfeit goods occurs in Brunei, with authorities regularly conducting investigations and seizures of fake versions of items such as watches, cosmetics, medicines and food. Because of a lack of information, it is difficult to estimate the size of the market in the country. The illicit trade of excise goods, such as cigarettes, alcohol, fireworks and tools, is a problem in Brunei. Law enforcement has conducted several operations to combat this trade, resulting in numerous confiscations of contraband items and the detaining and fining of people involved in smuggling.

    Environment

    Illegal timber harvesting in Brunei is primarily carried out by organized crime groups and loggers. It often occurs along the border with Malaysia, where Malaysian loggers, sometimes armed, encroach into Brunei's forests. Additionally, Malaysian poachers enter Brunei from Sarawak to harvest agarwood, which is popular in the Middle East as an ingredient for perfume, and smuggle it back to Malaysia for export. However, Brunei has managed to preserve much of its rainforest, indicating that flora crimes have not had a significant impact on the country.

    Although wildlife poaching is reportedly lower in Brunei than in neighbouring countries, some protected species, such as pangolins, slow lorises, owls, turtles, leopard cats and shark fins, are still illegally sold in certain markets and via social media, with cross-border smuggling probably moving the goods to neighbouring Malaysia. Birds are reported to be especially threatened by the wildlife trade, and illegal fishing activities occur in Brunei's exclusive economic zone, with most foreign illegal vessels coming from Vietnam and Malaysia. Although there is a small fauna crime market in Brunei, strong legislative efforts and a general respect for nature have helped to keep it in check. The monarchy has prioritized wildlife conservation, and efforts are under way to raise public awareness of the threats posed by such trafficking.

    There is evidence of non-renewable resource crimes taking place in Brunei and law enforcement has periodically shut down illegal goldmines without being able to track down miners or systematically collect information on illicit networks coordinating this market. Illegal gold mining may be a cross-regional phenomenon that has intensified because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to increased unemployment levels and incentivized those without employment or working under precarious conditions to engage in illegal mining, given the low barriers to entry in the sector and the abundance of valuable minerals in the country.

    Drugs

    There is no evidence to suggest that Brunei is a source or transit country for heroin, but it is a destination country to some extent. International actors facilitate the trade of heroin from other areas in South East Asia, although locals supply it to regular consumers within Brunei. The market remains small in comparison to neighbouring countries, and the high price of heroin in Brunei suggests that the availability of the drug is relatively limited overall.

    There is no indication that cocaine trade occurs in Brunei. Cocaine has not been involved in any major seizures in the country for almost a decade. Although some countries in South East Asia have become involved in the illegal transport of cocaine from Latin America, there is no evidence to suggest that Brunei is involved in this aspect of the trade. Cannabis is the second most seized drug in Brunei after methamphetamine, and there are indications that its consumption is increasing, particularly among youth and students. Brunei reportedly has one of the most expensive per-gram prices of cannabis in the world.

    The synthetic drug trade, particularly the demand for methamphetamine-based substances, has been on the rise over the past five years. Syabu, a street-quality type of methamphetamine, is now the primary drug of concern in Brunei and most other Association of Southeast Asian Nations member states. Criminal networks involved in its use and distribution have connections in Malaysia and other South East Asian countries. Ketamine and ecstasy (MDMA) are also growing in popularity. The synthetic drug market is a major criminal market in Brunei, with most profits accruing to foreign actors due to the growing supply from air and maritime routes. Despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the synthetic drug market in South East Asia, including Brunei, has proven highly resilient.

    Cyber Crimes

    Brunei faces various cybercrime challenges, mainly distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. Despite the threats, Brunei boasts robust cyber capacity and high levels of internet accessibility. Its people have a good understanding of cyber-security, which makes it a more challenging target for cyber-attacks compared to other South East Asian countries.

    Financial Crimes

    Recent instances of financial crimes in Brunei include fraudulent investment schemes by Malaysians falsely claiming to be linked to a Brunei sovereign wealth fund, as well as bribery cases involving public officials seeking job promotions. Additionally, the lack of clear distinction between the royal family’s private assets and public finances has allegedly allowed for the accumulation of significant private wealth.

    Criminal Actors

    There is currently no evidence of mafia-style groups or criminal networks operating in Brunei, with the exception of minor loose gangs. Although the country has a zero-tolerance policy for corruption and bribery, it is difficult to determine the extent to which private wealth is extracted from state resources due to the absolute monarchy's wealth and lack of transparency. As the media is owned by the royal family, any involvement of high-level state actors or royal family members in illegal activities, including organized crime, is unlikely to be reported on. In addition, allegations that the royal family and their associates have been involved in trafficking women for sexual exploitation have not been effectively investigated. The lack of democratic processes and the absolute power of the monarchy lead to a lack of transparency surrounding state-embedded actors.

    Brunei is vulnerable to drug trafficking and transnational terrorism because of its location on drug trafficking routes between China and Oceania and its proximity to Malaysia and the Philippines. As a result, there is presence, albeit limited, of West African syndicates, Chinese Triad groups and South East Asian criminal actors in the country. The latter specialize in illegal fishing on Brunei's coast-line. Given the lack of transparency, it is difficult to differentiate between private and public interests in Brunei and determine the involvement of private sector actors in organized crime.

    Leadership and governance

    Brunei is an absolute monarchy with a restricted political environment, lack of transparency and limited press freedom. The monarch is involved in major government positions and financial interests, and the government has shown little commitment to combating transnational organized crime. Furthermore, the international community has criticized the country for its human rights abuses, citing, for example, the introduction of stricter Sharia legislation and the criminalization of homosexuality in Brunei. Although the Anti-Corruption Bureau has successfully prosecuted several lower-level officials, the use of broad and vague terminology in Bruneian law can be problematic. Cases involving high-level officers and members of the royal family are not prosecuted. The Legislative Council, despite having no independent power, engages in question-and-answer sessions with government officials. However, there is generally little transparency in the operations of the Brunei government.

    Brunei has ratified various international treaties against organized crime and participates in regional and international forums to enhance international and regional cooperation with law enforcement agencies. The country has already joined several multilateral networks, including INTERPOL and the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering. However, despite Brunei’s long list of legal and political commitments, there is limited information about their implementation and few examples of practical bilateral or regional cooperation in relation to actual transnational organized crime investigation or prosecution.

    Brunei has a strong legislative framework against transnational organized crime, including a new legal requirement for some companies to maintain a register of controllers and submit their details to the Ministry of Finance and Economy. Nevertheless, despite the existence of these legal instruments, there are few examples of their implementation, and criminal justice practitioners have applied them inconsistently. Brunei's Internal Security Act serves as the primary legal framework to combat subversion, organized violence and other crimes that threaten the country's stability and national security. Brunei's approach to confiscation is also unique, as suspected perpetrators do not need to be convicted of organized crime to have their assets confiscated.

    Criminal justice and security

    Brunei's legal system is divided into secular and Sharia courts, with the latter following a strict interpretation of Islamic law. Civil and criminal law is based on English common law and enforced in secular courts, Sharia law is enforced in Sharia courts. In death penalty cases, the government provides an attorney to indigent defendants, and a legal aid fund was established to address the gap in access to justice. Conditions in prisons are not well documented.

    Brunei's obligations to prevent and combat transnational organized crime are not clearly defined in any criminal code. Although the government established an inter-agency team to investigate potential cases of human trafficking, they have failed to prosecute or convict any traffickers for the fourth consecutive year. Concerns have been raised that this is due to misunderstandings about what constitutes trafficking and to law enforcement’s insufficient capacity to identify victims and to investigate powerful stakeholders, including those connected to the royal family. In 2021, two large-scale operations targeting drug trafficking organizations in the country ended with the arrest of a number of suspects and the seizure of large quantities of syabu, as well as money, vehicles and jewelry.

    Given Brunei's small size, the country mostly controls its sovereign territory without international assistance. However, its coastal and maritime areas are vulnerable to illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, as there is a lack of efficient law enforcement in the high sea. The potential smuggling of people could also be a market that requires further attention from authorities, but no specific information exists regarding any explicit threats to Brunei's territorial integrity by transnational organized crime actors.

    Economic and financial environment

    Brunei's Anti-Money Laundering Act covers money laundering within the country, but the significant assets held by the monarchy are unlikely to be subject to scrutiny. Although Brunei has made significant progress in national anti-money laundering measures, it does not align its financial system’s rules with good practices of financial transparency, allowing a high degree of beneficial ownership and tax secrecy.

    Brunei's economy relies heavily on oil extraction, accounting for almost all of the country's total exports and over half of its GDP. The country has called for economic diversification, but progress has been slow because of the centralized state structure that relies on the monarchy. Despite this, Brunei’s exceptional wealth and tax-free status for citizens attracts foreign investors. The country also maintains a favourable economic regulatory environment with good property rights, judicial effectiveness, government integrity and business, monetary and trade freedoms. However, poor fiscal health, limited financial freedoms and high unemployment rates, particularly among foreign workers, increase vulnerability factors such as human trafficking.

    Civil society and social protection

    Brunei has no dedicated facility for addressing human trafficking, but it does have rehabilitation and protection centres to assist victims. In recent years, the government has allocated more of its budget for trafficking-specific expenses and maintained a secure shelter that provides medical care, counselling, vocational training programmes and access to recreational activities to female and male victims under 18. Although the government allows victims to leave the shelter without a chaperone and promises to help them find alternative employment, victims are likely to be deported and/or convicted as irregular workers and not identified as victims of human trafficking. There is no known protection programme, although the police encourage victims to assist in investigations as witnesses.

    Although Brunei has no national-level prevention strategies, the government has worked on poverty reduction policies as a form of crime prevention. It has also established an inter-agency public relations task force to raise awareness of trafficking and labour rights and regularly reviews government efforts through the inter-agency anti-trafficking committee. However, the lack of protections for foreign workers suggests insufficient measures to guard against exploitation.

    As an absolute monarchy with no elected representatives at the national level, Brunei has a scarcity of civil society organizations because of national legislation ensuring close government oversight. Only non-Bruneian NGOs are operating in the country, and they work closely with the government to tackle human trafficking, particularly sex trafficking of minors. Press freedom is severely restricted, with Brunei's only television station run by the state. The country's main English-language daily newspaper is also controlled by the sultan's family, leading journalists are reported to practise self-censorship. In addition, the introduction of Sharia law has led to the further restriction of Brunei's civic space, including the imposition of the death penalty for various offences, such as insulting the Prophet Mohammed, and punishments against individuals for publications against Islamic beliefs.

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    The criminal markets score is represented by the pyramid base size and the criminal actors score is represented by the pyramid height, on a scale ranging from 1 to 10. The resilience score is represented by the panel height, which can be identified by the side of the panel.

    How to measure organized crime?

    A series of 13 discussion papers, one for each illicit market considered during the development of the Index.

    Read more on globalinitiative.net
    How to measure organized crime?

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    This report was funded in part by a grant from the United States Department of State.

    ENACT is funded by the European Union and implemented by the Institute for Security Studies and INTERPOL, in affiliation with the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.

    The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein are those of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State.