KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 29 — Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi's lawyers should not get a second bite of the cherry in defending him against 47 criminal charges, by asking him questions that should have been asked at an earlier stage of the trial, the prosecution indicated today.
Ahmad Zahid is testifying as the first defence witness in his own defence in the trial.
Like what would usually happen to defence witnesses, Ahmad Zahid had already gone through the process of examination-in-chief where he was allowed to read out his witness statement and where his lawyers asked him further questions to enable him to elaborate, with eight days spent on this alone.
Ahmad Zahid had then undergone seven days of cross-examination as a defence witness, where the prosecution asked him questions and challenged his testimony.
On his 16th day on the witness stand today, Ahmad Zahid is being re-examined by his own lawyers, which would mean that his lawyers would ask him questions to give him a chance to clarify answers he had given to the prosecution during the cross-examination stage.
Lead prosecutor Datuk Raja Rozela Raja Toran today, however, repeatedly raise objections to questions that were posed by Ahmad Zahid's lawyer Datuk Ahmad Zaidi Zainal, as the questions were either on matters that were not even raised during the cross-examination stage or touched on matters that should have been raised in the examination-in-chief stage instead of now.
At one point, Zaidi sought to ask Ahmad Zahid to say whether the activities of the private company TS Consultancy & Resources — which received RM360,000 of Ahmad Zahid's charity Yayasan Akalbudi funds — were focused on a specific location.
Raja Rozela then interjected: "I'm sorry I have to interject, this is going too far, it is like a second bite at the first cherry. Yes, we did ask about TS Consultancy but now he's asking the witness to explain even further TS Consultancy's work. The question should not be asked because that particular issue was never raised about TS Consultancy's role, TS Consultancy's business.
"I did challenge the accused on this, but not to the extent of now having the witness explain for the second time. If at all, it should have been done during the examination-in-chief," she said.
Zaidi then noted that officers of TS Consultancy had as prosecution witnesses testified that they had went down to the field to register voters and that this evidence was referred to during cross-examination on the purported donation of RM360,000 to TS Consultancy, and that Ahmad Zahid had today said the money was given for the printing of al-Quran and claimed that registration of voters could still fall within one of Yayasan Akalbudi's objectives — namely carrying out sociopolitical research.
Zaidi said the reason for his question — which was objected to by Raja Rozela — was that the defence has to explain whether TS Consultancy's act of registering new voters was only for Ahmad Zahid's interests particularly in his parliamentary constituency of Bagan Datuk or to the rest of the country, to establish that Yayasan Akalbudi's money was not being abused.
Asked by High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah if this matter had been asked during cross-examination, Zaidi said it was asked during cross-examination on why the RM360,000 was given to TS Consultancy.
The judge then noted that this means the matter has already been explained previously in cross-examination, but Zaidi said he wanted to "expand" the matter in his re-examination of Ahmad Zahid.
The judge then said: "That is where the problem is, expansion. So have to limit to, confine to cross-examination."
Ahmad Zahid's lead defence lawyer Datuk Hisyam Teh Poh Teik then said the defence team should be entitled to expand on the matter and there ought to be no limit since the point was raised by the prosecution during cross-examination, and argued that the question should be admissible to explain the point.
But the judge highlighted that re-examination is confined to what has been already cross-examined, and that the point has already been explained and that it would result in objections by the prosecution.
"But it has already been explained, that is always going to be the problem, if that happens, they are going to say you are going over and above and beyond," the judge said.
Zaidi then said he was not going deeper into the matter and only wanted to ask whether the funds was used by TS Consultancy to register voters in Bagan Datuk or over the whole country.
Raja Rozela then replied by saying "that is exactly the point, we never raised this issue at all", with the judge then saying: "We need to have some boundaries, otherwise this whole thing will carry on".
Zaidi then agreed not to continue pursuing this question.
In this trial, Ahmad Zahid 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.
Ahmad Zahid is a trustee and had later became the sole signatory of cheques for Yayasan Akalbudi, a foundation formed with the aim of eradicating poverty and helping the poor.
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.
The trial before High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah resumes this afternoon.