Foreign visa system trial: Zahid received monthly payments in Singapore dollars, including sponsored trips, in relation to foreign visa system contract, court told

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Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi arrives at the Shah Alam High Court May 12, 2022. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi arrives at the Shah Alam High Court May 12, 2022. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

SHAH ALAM, May 18 — Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi received monthly cash payments of hundreds of thousands in Singapore dollar between 2014 and 2018, including sponsored overseas trips, from Ultra Kirana Sdn Bhd (UKSB) in relation to the federal government’s Foreign Visa System (VLN) contract, a key witness told the High Court today.

Former UKSB director Harry Lee Vui Khiun, who is also the prosecution’s 15th witness, testified as such during Ahmad Zahid’s VLN corruption trial.

Testifying in court, Lee recalled that Ahmad Zahid would constantly mention Umno and its need for funding during various meetings held between the two men in relation to the VLN contract from 2014 onwards — during the latter’s tenure as home minister and deputy prime minister beginning 2015.

To his best recollection, Lee told the court that Ahmad Zahid had previously indicated the need for contribution to his political fund and asked for assistance in matters relating to Umno after getting to know the Umno leader during a hospital visit after the 13th General Election concluded in May 2013.

“After the discussion about work and business, Datuk Seri Zahid would always talk about politics and Umno, and the problems that he faced within Umno, especially on the need for funding.

“What I understood from this request was that Datuk Seri Zahid wanted financial assistance from UKSB,” Lee said in his witness testimony.

While Ahmad Zahid had not mentioned explicitly the amount he wanted, Lee said the former did indicate that the contribution should be made in cash and in Singapore dollars.

As the person who held control over UKSB, Lee would later affirm in court his knowledge of the monthly cash payments made to Ahmad Zahid over the span of four years.

“I can confirm that UKSB delivered cash money to Datuk Seri Zahid from 2014 to 2018. We would deliver cash to Datuk Seri Zahid on a monthly basis in Singapore dollars.

“Since he (Ahmad Zahid) did not mention the amount that he wanted, UKSB decided to give S$200,000 per month. We also decided to pay monthly because we were not prepared to give cash in one lump sum,” he said.

On top of the monthly cash contribution, Lee also revealed in court that UKSB sponsored Ahmad Zahid’s overseas trips, his wife’s birthday celebration and also for Hari Raya Celebration from time to time.

Accordingly, the monies for the monthly payments were prepared by former UKSB’s administrative manager David Tan, who Lee described as a trusted employee and friend.

When asked where the money came from to pay Ahmad Zahid, Lee said the company’s business associates in Hong Kong who were subcontractors appointed to implement the VLN on UKSB’s behalf.

Zahid asked for monthly contribution to be increased twice

Roughly mid-2015, Lee said Ahmad Zahid made a request for the monthly contributions of S$200,000 to be further increased during a meeting at the latter’s home in Country Heights, Kajang.

“Once again, Datuk Seri Zahid did not indicate any amount for the increase. After discussing with Wan Quoris and David Tan, we agreed on a sum of S$300,000 per month.

Wan Quoris or Wan Quoris Shah Wan Abdul Ghani, is one of UKSB’s director and is tasked with improving UKSB’s public relations and fostering better relationships between the governing political party due to the former’s connections within Umno.

However, in 2017, the agreed amount of S$300,000 was again asked by Ahmad Zahid to be further increased due to the upcoming general election in 2018 which Lee and his colleagues complied.

“After discussing with Wan Quoris and David Tan, we agreed to increase the monthly payment from S$300,000 to S$520,000 per month.

“How we came up with this figure was because Datuk Seri Zahid had mentioned that the Umno divisions needed financial support.

“In our discussion, we agreed for a sum of roughly RM10,000 per division for the 100-odd Umno divisions and after conversion, the total sum came up to S$520,000 per month,” he said.

In all the discussions concerning the raising of the payment amounts, Lee said Ahmad Zahid was present as it was the latter who called for a meeting that took place at his private residence in Country Heights.

Lee also revealed that there were also months where payments were missed, but this was rectified by doubling the cash payment for the following month.

At the time, UKSB had already 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).

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

The company then sought a contract extension — roughly three years before the contract’s expiry — since it 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 as there were competitors showing interests in the project.

In a subsequent agreement signed in June 2017, the Home Ministry decided to grant UKSB a three-year extension instead of the six it initially sought, from November 2019 to October 2022.

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.

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