KUALA LUMPUR (Oct 20): At the High Court on Wednesday, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s lawyer argued the prosecution’s claim that RM17.9 million in fixed deposit withdrawals from Yayasan Akalbudi (YAB) were used to finance his daughter’s bid to buy a hotel in Bali was never mentioned in the charges.
At his corruption trial before Justice Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah, Zahid’s counsel Hisyam Teh Poh Teik asserted that the prosecution’s 47 charges had never mentioned the purchase of the hotel, which was allegedly for the Umno president’s daughter Datuk Nurulhidayah Ahmad Zahid.
On June 30, 2016, Zahid instructed law firm Messrs Lewis & Co to issue a cheque for RM8.6 million to hotel operator Ri-Yaz Asset Sdn Bhd.
A partner at the law firm had testified that he was instructed by the accused to make the payment for the purpose of purchasing a 60% stake in the company from Ri-Yaz Asset’s chairman Tan Sri Rashid Manaf.
Rashid had testified to the court that he had met Nurulhidayah to discuss the proposed venture.
He had also told the court that he sought to sell off his shares because the company was facing difficulties in repaying a US$24.8 million EXIM Bank loan for the purchase of the hotel in Bali.
The deal, however, did not materialise and the money was later transferred back to Lewis & Co, then put into fixed deposits in July 2016 and May 2017.
Hisyam rebutted the assertions by the prosecution last week that Zahid had dishonestly misappropriated the funds which were meant to be used by YAB for the poor.
“As far as the charges are concerned, there is no mention of the sale of shares from Tan Sri Rashid [Manaf], no mention about Ri-Yaz Asset [Sdn Bhd], no mention of [Ri-Yaz managing director] Datuk Mohd Shaheen [Shah], no mention of a purchase of a hotel in Bali," he said.
All the evidence adduced by Rashid and Shaheen were irrelevant to the charge, according to Hisyam.
He was referring to the sixth out of Zahid’s 12 criminal breach of trust (CBT) charges, where he had allegedly transferred RM17.9 million from YAB to Lewis & Co.
The lawyer called this charge “irrelevant", "ridiculous”, and “totally misplaced” because Ri-Yaz and the hotel were not mentioned in the charge.
Previously, deputy public prosecutor (DPP) Datuk Raja Rozela Raja Toran submitted last week that Rashid and Shaheen had confirmed that the interested buyer of the Ri-Yaz Asset shares was in fact Zahid’s daughter Nurulhidayah.
“The buyer was Datuk Nurulhidayah [Zahid’s] daughter, and this was confirmed by Tan Sri Rashid and Datuk Mohd Shaheen who had met both Nurulhidayah and Zahid to discuss the proposed venture,” Raja Rozela had said.
“What does a purchase of a boutique hotel in (Bali), Indonesia have to do for or help the poor in Malaysia?” the senior DPP, who is deputy head II of the prosecution division in the Attorney-General’s Chambers, had asked.
Justice Sequerah suggested to Hisyam that he thinks the prosecution was submitting based on the circumstances and time frame of the botched hotel purchase.
“They (prosecution) are saying that the money was used for that purpose, for that very purpose, so it’s more an inference from the circumstances,” he added.
The Umno president’s lawyer replied that the charge was egregious to the accused, because the allegation was that his client committed CBT the moment he transferred the money from the bank to the client account.
“My lord, in conclusion, we call this case of the prosecution an abuse of process, to put charges with no legs with ten arms, it’s against the public interest.
“So in short my lord, we say that the prosecution has not proved a prima facie case on CBT my lord, based on the charge they purport,” he said.
Zahid is on trial for 12 CBT charges, along with eight for corruption and 27 for money laundering, involving tens of millions of ringgit belonging to YAB.
Justice Sequerah fixed Nov 22 for continued submissions by the defence in reply to the prosecution's case.