Bung Moktar and wife ordered to enter defence over Felcra graft charges

Bung Moktar (right) and Zizie Izette have chosen to give sworn evidence in their defence. (Zahid Izzani/The Edge)

Bung Moktar (right) and Zizie Izette have chosen to give sworn evidence in their defence. (Zahid Izzani/The Edge)

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KUALA LUMPUR (Sept 2): Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin and his wife Datin Seri Zizie Izette Abdul Samad have been ordered to enter their defence in their corruption case involving RM2.8 million related to a Felcra Bhd investment.

Sessions Court judge Rozina Ayob made the ruling on Friday (Sept 2) after finding that the prosecution had established a prima facie case on the three graft charges Bung Moktar faces and three abetment charges Zizie faces.

“After examining the testimony of the prosecution witnesses as well as the arguments of all parties from the available evidence, I am satisfied and find that all the ingredients of the charges under Section 17(a) of the MACC Act 2009 [against] the first accused (Bung Moktar) have been successfully proven by the prosecution to the stage of prima facie,” the judge said.

Similarly, the judge said she is satisfied that a prima facie case has been established by the prosecution with regards to the charges under Section 28(1)(c) of the MACC Act against Zizie.

Rozina said the prosecution has also proven that the funds amounting to RM2.8 million were obtained via Zizie.

This, she said, leads to the presumption under Section 50 of the MACC Act that Bung Moktar is considered to have obtained the RM2.8 million bribe as an inducement for obtaining the Ministry of Finance’s approval for a RM150 million investment by Felcra in Public Mutual unit trusts.

The judge gave Bung Moktar and Zizie three options — to testify under oath from the witness stand; to give testimony from the accused dock while not under oath, where they cannot be cross-examined; or to choose to remain silent.

Bung Moktar’s lawyer M Athimulan and Zizie’s lawyer Datuk K Kumaraendran, speaking on their clients’ behalf, said the pair will give sworn evidence from the witness stand with the prosecution having an opportunity to cross-examine them.

When asked by the judge on how many witnesses the defence was planning to call, Athimulan said they planned to call 10 witnesses, including the two accused.

The court has fixed Sept 23 for the pair to begin their defence case. Another 13 dates have also been fixed across Sept 26 to Jan 13, 2023.

The prosecution team was led by deputy public prosecutors Datuk Faridz Gohim Abdullah, Mohd Sophian Zakaria and Law Chin How.

Prior to ordering the pair to enter their defence in the case, Rozina touched on an alleged contradiction in the testimonies of two prosecution witnesses, noting that the contradictions highlighted by the defence were immaterial.

"After listening to the testimony of the 24th prosecution witness (Public Mutual agent Madhi Abdul Hamid) and the 25th prosecution witness (unit trust consultant Norhaili Ahmad Mokhtar) as well as the arguments of all parties, even though there is a discrepancy between the recording of the conversation and their oral testimony in open court, this court finds that it does not affect the charges levied against both accused.

"However, the court took note of the contradiction, and after examining the evidence of the two accused carefully, the court has accepted the other evidence of 24th and 25th prosecution witnesses presented in this court," said the judge.

The trial, which began on Jan 2, 2020, saw 30 witnesses testify and 131 exhibits tendered during the prosecution stage, which concluded on May 17 this year.

Bung Moktar, who is the MP for Kinabatangan, is charged with two counts of receiving bribes amounting to RM2.2 million and RM262,500 as gratification to obtain Felcra’s approval to make a RM150 million investment in the Public Mutual unit trust.

He is also charged with receiving a RM337,500 cash bribe from Norhaili under the name of Zizie for the same reason and at the same place on June 19, 2015.

Zizie, 44, faces three charges of abetting her husband in the matter at the same place, date and time.

Lam Jian Wyn & S Kanagaraju