Foreign visa system trial: Ultra Kirana director says lobbied Zahid, ex-PM Najib for support to fend off would-be competitors

·5-min read
Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi arrives at the Shah Alam High Court May 11, 2022. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi arrives at the Shah Alam High Court May 11, 2022. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

SHAH ALAM, May 11 — A company director lobbied for approval and continued support from the Barisan Nasional administration by writing to both Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Datuk Seri Najib Razak in a bid prevent would-be competitors from managing the government’s Foreign Visa System (VLN) from 2013 onwards, the High Court heard today.

Ultra Kirana Sdn Bhd (UKSB) director Datuk Fadzil Ahmad, who is also the prosecution’s 14th witness, testified as such during former home minister Ahmad Zahid’s VLN corruption trial.

At the time, UKSB had entered into an agreement with the Malaysian government in 2012 to provide Visa Facilitation Services by operating several One Stop Centres (OSC) in the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

As UKSB was the primary developer of the VLN, Fadzil said the company felt that it should have been given priority as the operator of OSCs in the South Asia region if the utilisation of the VLN was expanded.

“At the time, I had written several letters to the prime minister, Najib Razak, to seek government support as there were competitions from several other companies interested in handling the OSC in China and other countries.

“UKSB had developed the VLN and intended to expand its utilisation in Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, India and Myanmar.

“UKSB wanted to turn the VLN into a single system used in the processing of Malaysian visa applications at various OSCs overseas,” he said in his witness testimony.

Previously the court had heard the testimony of another prosecution witness, former Home Ministry deputy secretary-general (policy and enforcement) Datuk Suriani Ahmad, who testified that UKSB had sought the approval and continued support of the BN government a mere week after Ahmad Zahid took over as home minister in May 2013.

In his testimony, Fadzil affirmed he had sent a total of three letters, which he signed, to Najib between May 2013 and October 2015.

As for Ahmad Zahid, Fadzil also affirmed he had signed several letters to the former between February 2016 and June 2017 to seek support and consideration for a contract extension to maintain the existing contractual agreement to supply the VLN for use.

In one of the letters dated October 17, 2016, Fadzil said he sought Ahmad Zahid’s support in order for the VLN and eVISA system to be made de facto to all to the visa issuance process at all issuing offices.

“This is because UKSB is of the view that it was critical for the VLN and eVISA to be made the only system used at all Malaysian visa issuing offices for the purpose of ensuring system uniformity and standard operating procedures as well as to strengthen the national security aspect,” he said.

On the same date, Fadzil also wrote another letter to Ahmad Zahid on its application to seek a six-year contract extension on the VLN and eVISA system from October 2019 to the end-2025.

In February 2017, Fadzil said UKSB again wrote to Ahmad Zahid, this time to justify the contract extension request which he stated was reasonable and in line with the government’s implementation of its National Immigration Control System (SKIN).

According to the initial agreement, the company’s service contract for the VLN management ran from February 2013 until October 2019 over a span of six years.

However, in a subsequent agreement signed in June 2017 witnessed by Fadzil himself, the Home Ministry decided to grant UKSB a three-year extension instead of the six it initially sought, from November 2019 to October 2022.Fadzil then testified this agreement was mutually terminated on March 1, 2021.

The company was appointed as a government contractor in the management of both VLN and OSC after the Home Ministry had initially received a letter in March 2010 from the company addressed to Ahmad Zahid’s predecessor, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, with an offer to provide visa facilitation services in the PRC.

In its proposal, UKSB had mooted for the aforementioned system to assist in the application and documentation process of Chinese applicants wishing to travel to Malaysia.

Despite initial hiccups, the ministry eventually allowed UKSB to conduct a “proof of concept” run of between six and 12 months according to recommendations made from April 2011 onwards, which subsequently produced encouraging results.

Fast-forward to March 2012, and an agreement was finalised between the Malaysian government and UKSB, with the latter appointed as a vendor in the implementation and preparation of visa services on behalf of the Immigration Department in the PRC for a period of six years.

Ahmad Zahid is facing 33 charges of receiving bribes amounting to S$13.56 million (RM42 million) from UKSB as an inducement for himself in his capacity as a civil servant and the then home minister to extend the contract of the company as the operator of the OSCs in China and the VLN system as well as to maintain the agreement to supply VLN integrated system paraphernalia to the same company by the Home Ministry.

For another seven counts, Ahmad Zahid was charged as home minister to have obtained for himself S$1,150,000, RM3 million, €15,000 and US$15,000 in cash from the same company in connection with his official work.

The trial before Judge Datuk Mohd Yazid Mustafa continues tomorrow.

Related Articles In live debate, Najib moots Petronas takeover of Sapura but Anwar warns against blind rescue Ex-1MDB company secretary never met Najib or witnessed him signing off on decisions, says didn’t think former PM would entertain her as ‘level too high’ Lawyer Shafee hid ‘identity’ of RM9.5m received from Najib as loan instead of legal services to Umno and BN, witness tells court

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting