Not a single sen of taxpayers' money went to Yayasan Akalbudi, on-trial Zahid insists

·6-min read
Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, May 23 — Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told the High Court that no money from taxpayers went into Yayasan Akalbudi, the charitable foundation he founded and from which he is accused of misappropriating funds.

The former deputy prime minister said this while testifying as the first defence witness in his criminal breach of trust (CBT), corruption and money laundering trial today.

Asked by his lawyer Datuk Ahmad Zaidi Zainal whether any of Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds originated from public or government funds, the accused stressed that the charitable foundation funds were mostly funded by him as well as donations.

'Yang Arif, all the sources, not one cent of it came from government or taxpayers’ money, from the citizens,” Ahmad Zahid said.

He noted that he held corporate roles, including leading several public listed companies and was even the chairman of Bank Simpanan Nasional at one time prior to holding government roles such as the deputy minister, minister or deputy prime minister.

He said that the allowances he received as CEO and chairman of listed companies exceeded the needs of his family’s expenditure, and that took his father’s advice to donate the excess income for the sake of the welfare and religious purposes of those who needed them.

He said this meant that the funds in Yayasan Akalbudi — initially known as Yayasan Budi when set up in 1997 — were from his personal income from allowances that he received from his corporate work, as well as dividends he received from his investment in such companies.

'Besides that, I also carried out trading in the stock exchange, not limited to my trading of the companies that I were involved in, but I also did share trading whether in the category of blue chips or shares that were listed —IPOs or others — to get income that I entered into Yayasan Akalbudi funds.

'Besides that, there were several contributions from my friends and business figures who are unrelated to the portfolios that I held, because before that I didn’t hold any positions in government.

'Meaning Yayasan Akalbudi’s income, not even a single cent — up until its accounts were frozen — came from the government or from the public’s money or taxpayers’ money,” he said.

Ahmad Zahid told his lawyer that he could not remember the exact sum of his personal funds that he had put into Yayasan Akalbudi, but estimated it to be in the tens of millions of ringgit originating from his corporate activities.

Ahmad Zahid then read out excerpts from his first statement to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) on July 2, 2018 while he was being investigated, including an Islamic saying that it is better to donate quietly with the left hand not knowing what the right hand donated, noting: “Therefore, most of the use of Yayasan Akalbudi funds which are intended to build mosques, tahfiz centres and so on do not necessarily need to have any proof of payment.” “I stated that initially the donor who contributed to this Yayasan Akalbudi is from me myself, where I had used my own money to fund this foundation. Besides that, majority from those funds are money that I had obtained through my own salary as CEO. I also received support from my friends, namely a few presidents of public companies or private companies to support the amal jariah (charity) efforts,” he said, citing his statement to the MACC.

While claiming to have fully funded Yayasan Akalbudi initially, Ahmad Zahid had also told the MACC that the foundation’s funds were also obtained from corporate bodies, businessmen and individuals and from his “friends” in the corporate world who wished to do charity.

Ahmad Zahid said he had also told MACC that Yayasan Akalbudi had never presented any letters to anyone who wished to contribute to the foundation’s funds, and that the funds received since the foundation was established had hit millions in ringgit.

As for his second statement to the MACC on July 3, 2018, the excerpt read out by Ahmad Zahid including his assertion that his friends had found out about the charity programmes under Yayasan Akalbudi and that they too wished to contribute financially to the charity work.

Ahmad Zahid had insisted to the MACC that he did not present any request to any company to donate to Yayasan Akalbudi as he was doing it voluntarily for charity, but also said he did not stop his friends from contributing and that he would personally receive their contributions through cheques and direct his officer to bank in those cheques to Yayasan Akalbudi for charity purposes.

Ahmad Zahid also read out excerpts from his statement to the MACC on October 10, 2018 while under investigation.

Among them, he said that after he became deputy prime minister, most of the contributions to Yayasan Akalbudi came from external sources, including tycoons Tan Sri Vincent Tan and Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Albukhary.

Two other donors which Ahmad Zahid had mentioned to the MACC is a banker who is his neighbour in Country Heights, and managing director of Jakel Group, Datuk Mohamed Faroz Mohamed Jakel.

Previously, Ahmad Zahid had told the High Court that his friends Tan Sri Mohamed Hashim Ali, Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary, Tan Sri Halim Saad and Tan Sri Ahmad Johan started contributing to Yayasan Akalbudi when the foundation’s charity work became more widely known since 2013.

During this third investigation session in October 2018, Ahmad Zahid had also told the MACC that his income reached around RM120,000 per month in the past from his corporate positions in listed companies (RM80,000 as CEO of Kretam Holding Berhad, RM20,000 as Tekala Corporation Berhad CEO, RM10,000 each as CEO of Ramatex Berhad and Seng Hup Berhad, and RM3,000 only as chairman of Bank Simpanan Nasional), and that he had contributed about RM80,000 monthly from his income to Yayasan Akalbudi.

He had also read out an excerpt where he told the MACC that he also placed his income from dividends and stock tradings and also banked in personal cheques issued by himself to Yayasan Akalbudi’s account, estimating that his personal contribution from dividends and share tradings to the foundation in the past to have reached RM3 million to RM4 million annually.

Having taken on various roles in the corporate, business and government in the past, Ahmad Zahid’s career had included being political secretary from 1987 to 1994 to Datuk Seri Najib Razak when the latter was youth and sports minister and defence minister, and was BSN chairman from 1994 to 1998 and led the four other listed firms within the 1994 to 1999 period.

In this trial, Ahmad Zahid ― who is a former home minister and currently the Umno president ― faces 47 charges, namely 12 counts of criminal breach of trust in relation to charitable foundation Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds, 27 counts of money laundering, and eight counts of bribery charges.

The trial before High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah resumes tomorrow.

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