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UMNO Chief ordered to face corruption charges

KUALA LUMPUR (AGENCIES) – Malaysia’s High Court has ordered United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) President Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (AP; pic below) to enter his defence on 47 charges of corruption, bribery and money laundering.

Malaysian media reported that Judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah made the ruling yesterday after finding that the prosecution had established a prima facie case against Ahmad Zahid.

The 69-year-old former deputy prime minister faces 12 counts of criminal breach of trust (CBT) in relation to charitable foundation Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds, 27 counts of money laundering and eight counts of bribery charges, according to Malay Mail.

He owns Yayasan Akalbudi.

Earlier, the judge dismissed the defence lawyer’s contention that Ahmad Zahid should be given immunity for 46 of the 47 charges for having truthfully disclosed information to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) during the investigations.

Under Section 30(7) of the MACC Act, it is stated that any person who discloses any information to the MACC shall not be prosecuted unless he makes a false or misleading statement.

In his ruling, the judge however said there was no merit to the argument that Ahmad Zahid is entitled to such immunity, Bernama reported.

Judge Sequerah also said that Ahmad Zahid has three options in his defence trial: to testify under oath on the witness stand, to give an unsworn statement from the dock without being cross-examined by the prosecution, and to keep silent and not answer to the charges.

After consulting with his lawyers, Ahmad Zahid chose option one, where he will testify under oath on the witness stand with the prosecution given the opportunity to question him during cross-examination.

The defence trial for Ahmad Zahid, who is also MP for Bagan Datuk, is set to take place from April to November this year.

The prosecution stage began in November 2019, where 99 witnesses were called to testify.
During the prosecution stage, the prosecutor presented evidence on all the 47 charges made against Ahmad Zahid.

Malaysian media reported that for the 12 CBT charges, Ahmad Zahid was accused of having used MYR31.06 million of the charity funds to make payments for his personal credit cards usage, insurance policy and licence for his personal vehicles, remittances to a law firm, and contributions to the Malaysian police football association.

Under the eight bribery charges, Ahmad Zahid was accused of receiving bribes amounting to MYR21.25 million from three firms in his capacity as home minister as an inducement for him to help the companies secure projects, including in the supply of passport chips and setting up of visa one-stop centres in Pakistan and Nepal.

As for the 27 money laundering charges, Ahmad Zahid was alleged to have engaged in direct transactions involving MYR72 million as income from illegal activities between March 2016 and April 2018.

Malaysiakini reported that apart from the 47 charges, Ahmad Zahid is also facing an ongoing separate corruption trial in the Shah Alam High Court involving 40 charges linked to the overseas visa system (VLN). In total, he faces 87 charges of CBT, corruption and money laundering involving several million ringgit.

Speaking to reporters after the court proceedings, Ahmad Zahid said he accepted the decision of the High Court.

“My defence team will take heed of the court’s order… the dates (for the defence trial) have also been set and, of course, we accept it in line with our existing legal system,” he was quoted as saying by Bernama.