DPM Zahid fails to get back passport permanently while on trial, temporary release allowed
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 3 — The High Court today disallowed Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s application for the permanent return of his passport while still on trial.
However, he was allowed a temporary release of his passport in order to apply for a diplomatic passport.
Ahmad Zahid’s lawyer Datuk Hisyam Teh Poh Teik this morning informed the High Court that the prosecution did not object to Ahmad Zahid’s bid for a return of his passport.
“At the very onset, My Lord, I must say the prosecution has no objection to his application. The grounds for the application is set out in the affidavit for support affirmed January 20, 2023. Under the circumstances, I pray for order in terms. I’m most grateful, My Lord,” he said.
Deputy public prosecutor Abdul Malik Ayob confirmed the prosecution had no objection to Ahmad Zahid’s application, but asked that it be reworded to only allow the passport to be released temporarily.
“We have no objection to his application. However we do need to point out, based on applicant’s affidavit, this passport is needed for issuance of diplomatic passport. So we ask for a rewording, if after issuance of diplomatic passport, this passport can be returned to court,” he said.
Judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah then deliberated on the arguments before delivering his judgement to dismiss Ahmad Zahid’s application for the permanent return of his passport.
Explaining his decision, Sequerah noted that one of the bail conditions for Ahmad Zahid was for his passport to be surrendered to the court.
The judge also highlighted that the Federal Constitution’s Article 8(1) states that all persons are equal before the law, before going on to quote from the Federal Court’s November 2009 judgement in Sivarasa Rasiah v. Badan Peguam Malaysia & Anor, which had cited the “Commentary on the Constitution of India”.
“As quoted from the ‘Commentary on the Constitution of India’, page 958 that one of the many facets of equality before the law is there should be no privileged person or class. The principle underlying Article 8 is the law must apply alike on all persons in all circumstances. Applying these fundamental principles here, there is therefore no distinction between one accused person and another accused,” Sequerah said.
“The court nonetheless takes cognisance of the fact that as deputy prime minister and minister, the accused has official duties to perform, but these duties must not clash with the duty of the court.
“The accused is still entitled to apply for release of passport for purposes of discharging his duties overseas as and when they arise or as becomes necessary, as long as they do not clash with the duty of the court to proceed with the trial,” he added.
The judge agreed with the prosecution that the accused is entitled to have his passport back but only for the purpose of applying for the diplomatic passport and said the accused must surrender the travel document again after that.
Dismissing Ahmad Zahid’s application for the permanent return of his passport, Sequerah asked the defence if they wanted to apply for a temporary return.
Hisyam then immediately verbally applied for Ahmad Zahid’s passport to be temporarily returned for the purposes of applying for a diplomatic passport, which the judge then granted.
Ahmad Zahid's lawyer Datuk Hisyam Teh Poh Teik outside courtroom at Kuala Lumpur High Court February 3, 2023. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Previously on January 20, Ahmad Zahid applied to have the court permanently return his passport — which was held by the court as part of the conditions for his bail for his ongoing trial over Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds— to enable him to carry out his official duties as deputy prime minister.
Apart from the surrender of his passport, Ahmad Zahid had also put up a RM2 million bail in this case as part of his bail conditions.
Ahmad Zahid, who is also Umno president and Barisan Nasional chairman, is facing 47 charges in the High Court in Kuala Lumpur before judge Sequerah.
The 47 charges are namely, 12 counts of criminal breach of trust in relation to over RM31 million of charitable foundation Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds, 27 counts of money-laundering, and eight counts of bribery charges over RM21.25 million in alleged bribes.
Ahmad Zahid’s trial will resume on April 10 until April 13, with the other scheduled trial dates being May 15 to May 18, June 12 to June 15, July 24 to July 27, August 1 to 3, August 7 to 10, and August 21 to 24.
* A previous version of this story contained an error which has since been corrected.