KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 30 — Former home minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi today sought to fend off insinuations that he was “trigger happy” in accepting bribes.
Ahmad Zahid was testifying in his own defence in his trial involving 47 charges of corruption, money laundering, and criminal breach of trust.
Today, Ahmad Zahid was asked to clarify about businessman Junaith Asharab Md Shariff, who had given RM13.25 million via 24 cheques to the law firm Lewis & Co’s client account.
Ahmad Zahid had throughout the trial asserted that Lewis & Co was holding money in the client account on trust for Yayasan Akalbudi, a charitable foundation where he is a trustee and its sole signatory for cheques.
Today, Ahmad Zahid’s lawyer Hamidi Mohd Noh noted that the prosecution had on August 23 previously suggested that it was common sense for Ahmad Zahid to feel “syukur dan gembira” (grateful and happy) with such a big donation from Junaith to Yayasan Akalbudi.
Ahmad Zahid responded by clarifying that he knew what the prosecution was implying with such a suggestion regarding his emotions, even though the prosecution did not directly accuse him of feeling happy for allegedly receiving bribes.
“Yang Arif, this ‘gembira’ (happy) is as if I’m trigger happy to receive bribe money. Although it was not mentioned directly, I understand the implied meaning.
“So, I don’t feel happy and don’t feel grateful, because the person who should feel grateful is the donor as divine blessings will be obtained by that donor,” he said.
Ahmad Zahid also agreed that he had previously testified in court that even though the donation would help his own charity Yayasan Akalbudi, the charity is not for him personally and it is for religious purposes and it would be a matter between the donor and Allah.
At this point, High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah noted that this would be just a repetition of what Ahmad Zahid already said in court previously.
Hamidi then asked why Ahmad Zahid disagreed that Junaith had hoped for something in exchange.
Ahmad Zahid then replied: “He himself never asked for any help to do business, never.”
Today marks the end of Ahmad Zahid being a defence witness in his own trial, after having spent 17 days in the witness stand.
This afternoon at slightly past 4pm, Ahmad Zahid’s lawyer Datuk Ahmad Zaidi Zainal informed the High Court that they had completed re-examination for Ahmad Zahid and had no further questions to ask him.
The High Court then released Ahmad Zahid as a defence witness from the witness stand.
Hamidi then informed the High Court that Ahmad Zahid’s legal team now planned to call 40 additional defence witnesses (excluding Ahmad Zahid himself), down from the previous figure of 43 defence witnesses.
Asked by the judge if it was “absolutely necessary to call” the 40 additional witnesses, Hamidi replied: “Yes, these witnesses are short witnesses, they can go relatively quite fast.”
While lead prosecutor Datuk Raja Rozela Raja Toran suggested there might be a need to schedule additional hearing dates since 40 was still a significant number, Ahmad Zahid’s legal team expressed confidence that the current scheduled dates were sufficient as the new witnesses would not take long to testify.
Ahmad Zahid’s lead defence lawyer Datuk Hisyam Teh Poh Teik said: “We are confident we will be able to complete these witnesses within the existing dates, because those witnesses are short witnesses.”
The judge said the current hearing dates can be maintained for now, and that additional hearing dates could be added on later if required.
The trial will resume next on September 19.
The other trial dates that had been scheduled previously are September 20 to September 22, September 26 to September 29, October 31, and November 7 to November 10.
In this trial, Ahmad Zahid ― who is also a former deputy prime minister― is facing 47 charges, namely 12 counts of criminal breach of trust in relation to RM31 million charitable foundation Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds, 27 counts of money-laundering, and eight counts of bribery charges over RM21.25 million of alleged bribes.
The 12 counts of criminal breach of trust is in relation to the alleged misappropriation of Yayasan Akalbudi funds, namely 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.
Yayasan Akalbudi is a charitable foundation established with the aim of eradicating poverty and helping the poor.