Millions in kickbacks from foreign visa system operator

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on June 27, 2019.
Millions in kickbacks from foreign visa system operator
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KUALA LUMPUR: Former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was slapped with another seven charges yesterday of allegedly receiving S$4.24 million in kickbacks from a company operating the  overseas visa (VLN) system.

The 66-year-old Umno president claimed trial to committing the offences while he was the home minister.

“I understand and I claim trial,” he said from the dock at the Sessions Court here.

Ahmad Zahid, who is the member of parliament for Bagan Datoh, is charged with receiving the money in Singapore currency  from Ultra Kirana Sdn Bhd to facilitate the company in extending its contract of services as a one-stop centre in China.

He allegedly received the money from Ultra Kirana on seven occasions at Seri Satria, the official residence of the deputy prime minister in Putrajaya, between March 28, 2017 and March 2, 2018.

The details are as follows:

• Receiving S$300,000 to extend its contract services in China on March 28, 2017;

• Receiving S$300,000 to extend its contract as one-stop centre on May 4, 2017;

• Receiving S$1.04 million for one-stop centre contract in September 2017

• Receiving S$1.04 million to extend its contract in November 2017;

• Receiving S$520,000 to extend its contract on Jan 10, 2018;

• Receiving S$520,000 to extend its contract on Feb 12, 2018; and,

• Receiving S$520,000 on March 2, 2018.

All the charges were filed under Section 16(a)B of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009 for receiving bribes.

The charges, punishable under Section 24 (1) of the same act, provides for a maximum of 20 years in jail and a fine of either five times the amount of gratification or RM10,000, whichever is higher, upon conviction.

Present at the court yesterday to lend their support to Ahmad Zahid were former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Umno Youth chief Datuk Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki.

Also in court were Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s newly minted chief commissioner Latheefa Koya, deputy commissioner (operations) Datuk Seri Azam Baki and head of investigations Datuk Seri Simi Abdul Ghani.

Ahmad Zahid’s daughter, Datuk Nurul Hidayah and her husband Datuk Saiful Nizam Mohd Yusoff, also attended the proceedings.

The prosecution, comprising Deputy Public Prosecutors Mohd Mukhzany Fariz Mohd Mokhtar and Zander Lim Wai Keong, offered bail at RM200,000 with one surety.

Zahid’s legal team — led by Kitson Foong and comprising Datuk Ahmad Zaidi Zainal, Hamidi Mohd Noh, Datuk Rosal Azimin and Mohd Shahril Madisa — agreed with the amount and informed the court that the Umno president’s passport had been handed to the court in other cases.

Judge Azura Alwi granted bail at RM200,000 with one surety and fixed July 31 for mention.

With the seven charges yesterday  and the earlier 47 charges for money laundering, the former deputy prime minister is facing 54 charges in total.

On Oct 19 and Dec 14, 2018, and Feb 20 this year, Ahmad Zahid claimed trial to 12 counts of criminal breach of trust, eight counts of bribery and 27 counts of money laundering involving tens of millions of ringgit belonging to Yayasan Akalbudi.

The cases have been transferred to the High Court with trial set for from Nov 18 to 22, Dec 2 to 6 and Dec 9 to 13.

Today, another 33 charges in connection with the VLN system are expected to be levelled against Ahmad Zahid at the Sessions Court in Shah Alam.