KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 22 — Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s generous donations to those in need are believed to originate from money he himself received as donations, his aide Maj Gen (Rtd) Datuk Fadzlette Othman Merican Idris Merican said today.
Fadzlette, who is currently the media director for Zahid in his capacity as Umno president, said this when testifying as the second defence witness in the latter’s trial involving 47 charges.
Lead prosecutor Datuk Raja Rozela Raja Toran today asked if Fadzlette was aware of the source of funds that Zahid was said to have donated.
Fadzlette then said: “Not directly but I’m sure it comes from contributions or donations from mostly individuals or any organisations.”
Raja Rozela then asked: “So you say now, Datuk Seri Zahid gives donations using whose money?”
Fadzlette replied: “Money Datuk Seri Zahid receives from donations.”
Fadzlette agreed she did not have personal knowledge about these donations.
Later, Zahid’s lawyer Aiman Abdul Rahman asked Fadzlette to explain her answer regarding the source of Zahid’s donations, saying: “Just now about Datuk Seri Zahid’s donations, you said you don’t know where the source is from, but you said money Datuk Seri Zahid received from donations, can you explain?”
Fadzlette replied: “I have no detailed information on the donations, but I know Datuk Seri receives many donations from organisations or individuals.”
Maj Gen (Rtd) Datuk Fadzlette Othman Merican Idris Merican is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court September 12, 2022. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Yesterday, Fadzlette told the High Court that she had known Zahid to be a very generous person and a philanthropist since she started working for him, saying he had never rejected any requests for donations and that he would usually donate money without checking the amount.
Fadzlette listed the donation requests which she was directly involved in, including requests from sports and welfare clubs of media agencies, letters from residential areas which mostly requested for mosque repairs, paying for tahfiz schools’ activities, and financial aid for recreational activities, noting that Zahid would give the donations.
“Usually when giving donations, he will not check how much is given and will just give to the individuals who need it. To the extent that there was one point, after giving donations, I remember Datuk Seri Zahid had asked me, ‘How much did I give, ya?’” she had said, adding that Zahid however did not want to be seen as showing off his donations and did not put up notices or signboards of his donations.
Fadzlette has served Zahid for 11 years, starting from 2011 when she was media director to then defence minister Zahid. She later worked as press secretary for Zahid when he was home minister and deputy prime minister until May 2018, and became media director for him as Umno president since June 2018.
In this trial, Zahid is facing 47 charges, namely 12 counts of criminal breach of trust in relation to RM31 million of charitable foundation Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds, 27 counts of money-laundering, and eight counts of bribery charges over the receiving of RM21.25 million in alleged bribes.
Zahid is a trustee and later became the sole signatory of cheques for Yayasan Akalbudi, a foundation formed to eradicate poverty and help the poor.
The 12 counts of criminal breach of trust is in relation to the alleged misappropriation of Yayasan Akalbudi funds, including RM1.3 million via 43 cheques for his and his wife’s credit card bills, RM107,509.55 via three cheques for vehicle insurance and road tax for 20 privately-owned vehicles, a RM1.3 million cheque to the police’s football association, a RM10 million cheque for a loan to Armada Holdings Sdn Bhd, RM360,000 via two cheques to political consultancy firm TS Consultancy & Resources, and over RM17.9 million of funds transferred from Yayasan Akalbudi to law firm Lewis & Co.
Zahid and his lawyers have sought to pin the blame on his former executive secretary Major Mazlina Mazlan @ Ramly over the use of Yayasan Akalbudi cheques for purposes such as paying the credit card bills.
Zahid and his lawyers have also justified the use of Yayasan Akalbudi funds to channel RM1.3 million to the police’s football association by saying that it fits within the charitable organisation’s objectives, as months of unpaid salary then meant the football players would be poor or in financial need.