Akalbudi trustees’ board didn’t know about investment in hotel management firm, MACC officer tells Zahid trial

Danial Dzulkifly
·3-min read
Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court in Kuala Lumpur March 8, 2021. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court in Kuala Lumpur March 8, 2021. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, March 8 — Yayasan Akalbudi’s investment purchase of stakes in hotel management firm Ri-Yaz Asset Sdn Bhd was made without the knowledge of its board of trustees, the High Court heard today in the corruption trial of former minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Muhammad Fazli Zulkifli, an investigative officer with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), said the decision to use RM8.6 million from Yayasan Akalbudi’s fund to buy shares in Ri-Yaz’s hotel assets was made as Zahid’s daughter, Datuk Nurulhidayah Ahmad Zahid, had an interest.

“Based on Datuk Seri [Ahmad Zahid’s] statement, Yayasan Akalbudi was interested in the investment.

“However based on our investigations and other witness statements recorded, the investment was done without the knowledge of Akalbudi board of trustees and because Zahid’s daughter, Datuk Nurulhidayah, had an interest in the investment and the payment was done by Akalbudi,” Fazli said under questioning by deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Sazilee Abdul Khairi.

Fazli is the 93rd prosecution witness to testify so far.

In his testimony last week, Fazli used a flow chart to explain how RM17.9 million were transferred to law firm Lewis & Co that eventually ended up as fixed deposits, with part of it used for the Ri-Yaz hotel asset purchase based on his investigations in 2018.

Sazilee then asked the MACC officer if law firm Lewis & Co would have transferred the RM17.9 million of its own volition, without the knowledge of Yayasan Akalbudi.

Fazli said that to his knowledge, the law firm would only act on Zahid’s sole instruction.

He also told the court that Ri-Yaz’s financial situation was “unstable” due to complications from its hotel operations in Bali at that time.

Out of the RM17.9 million that was in Lewis & Co’s account by June 2016, nearly half or RM9,350,265.21 to be exact, was placed as fixed deposits on July 13, 2016

The remainder RM8,602,920 was placed into fixed deposits in two tranches: on July 21, 2016 and May 11, 2017.

But before the second transaction of roughly RM8.6 million became fixed deposits, the money was transferred from the law firm to Ri-Yaz Assets Sdn Bhd as a “deposit” for a share purchase deal that was later aborted.

The same RM8.6 million was later transferred back to the law firm and only then placed into fixed deposits in July 2016 and May 2017.

Zahid, a former deputy prime minister and currently the Umno president, is on trial on 47 charges. Of the total, 12 counts are for criminal breach of trust in relation to Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds, 27 counts for money-laundering, and eight counts for bribery.

*Editor’s note: This story has been amended to reflect a correction to the RM17.9 million amount that was initially said to have been used to purchase the shares in Ri-Yaz’s hotel assets. Malay Mail apologises for the earlier error.

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