(Updated)

Abdul Azeez to face graft and money-laundering trial after appeal dismissed

Abdul Azeez (centre). He was represented by Amer Hamzah Arshad and Joshua Tay, who earlier apologised to the court for the Baling Member of Parliament’s non-appearance on Aug 26, due to his client suffering from gastritis. (File photo by Mohamad Shahril Basri/The Edge)

Abdul Azeez (centre). He was represented by Amer Hamzah Arshad and Joshua Tay, who earlier apologised to the court for the Baling Member of Parliament’s non-appearance on Aug 26, due to his client suffering from gastritis. (File photo by Mohamad Shahril Basri/The Edge)

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PUTRAJAYA (Sept 5): Former Lembaga Tabung Haji chairman Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim will still have to undergo his ongoing graft and money-laundering trial in the Sessions Court in Kuala Lumpur.

This follows a three-member Court of Appeal bench on Monday (Sept 5) dismissing his appeal to strike out three graft and five money-laundering charges against him in the ongoing trial.

However, the appellate court allowed Abdul Azeez’s application to strike out four money-laundering charges, due to the fact that it was not clear where the offence was stipulated, as it merely stated the Klang Valley, whereas the trial is held in Kuala Lumpur.

Abdul Azeez was appealing against the High Court's decision on March 12 last year, which dismissed his application to strike out three corruption charges involving RM5.2 million in connection with road projects in Perak and Kedah, and 10 money-laundering charges involving RM13.9 million, which he allegedly received from Menuju Asas Sdn Bhd.

With the latest ruling, Abdul Azeez has managed to get four of the 10 money-laundering charges struck off.

The court ruled that the prosecution should differentiate the offences on whether they were committed in Kuala Lumpur or Selangor so as to differentiate the jurisdiction of the local court.

This follows the court ruling that by not stating the venue of the alleged offences, the charges seemed ambiguous and unfair to the former Tabung Haji chairman.

Judge Datuk Seri Kamaludin Md Said, who sat with Datuk Abu Bakar Jais and Datuk Che Mohd Ruzima Ghazali, unanimously ruled that the other charges are in order and do not prejudice Abdul Azeez.

The written judgement was read by Abu Bakar.

He ruled that the three graft charges do not violate the legal principles, and there is no political prosecution and mala fide (bad faith) as alleged by Abdul Azeez in his striking out application.

Hence, the judge said the charges are in order, and the appellate court also ruled there is no duplicity or multiplicity in all the graft and money-laundering charges.

“The [other six] money-laundering charges can stand on their own, and it is not necessary for the prosecution to state the predicate (main offence),” the top judge added.

The appellate court said it was improper for the court to consider striking out the charges when the case had not gone to a full trial to allow the prosecution to make its case.

With this, Abdul Azeez's case in Kuala Lumpur is fixed for mention on Wednesday.

The decision made on Monday follows Attorney General's Chambers (AGC) Deputy Public Prosecutor Azlinda Ahad informing the court that no decision was made by the chambers with regard to the four representations sent by Abdul Azeez to them.

“The AG (Attorney General) had seen the papers and was briefed on the matter last Friday. No decision was made, and we are instructed to receive the court’s decision,” she said.

Abdul Azeez, 55, was appealing against the High Court's decision on March 12 last year, which dismissed his application to strike out the three corruption charges involving RM5.2 million in connection with road projects in Perak and Kedah, and 10 money-laundering charges involving RM13.9 million, which he allegedly received from Menuju Asas.

Part of the graft money which he allegedly received was with regard to Menuju Asas securing the West Coast Expressway project under construction worth RM644.48 million.

For the three corruption charges, he is alleged to have committed the offences at CIMB Bank, Jalan Tun Perak in Kuala Lumpur on Dec 8, 2010, and at Affin Bank, Puchong city centre, Selangor on June 13, 2017 and April 10, 2018.

For the money-laundering charges, Abdul Azeez was charged with committing the offences in the Klang Valley between March 8, 2010 and Aug 30, 2018.

With four of the 10 money-laundering charges struck out, the initial amount of RM13.9 million, which he was charged with, is now reduced to RM1.858 million, as mentioned by one of his counsels.

Abdul Azeez was represented by Amer Hamzah Arshad and Joshua Tay, who earlier apologised to the court for the Baling Member of Parliament’s non-appearance on Aug 26, due to his client suffering from gastritis.

Amer Hamzah later told reporters that they may not appeal against Monday's decision, but would follow up with the AGG on the four representation letters that they had sent.

This follows a financial analysis by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, which shows that Abdul Azeez received lawful remuneration as one of Menuju Asas directors, and hence, the argument over the graft allegations should be reviewed.

Surin Murugiah & Lam Jian Wyn