Prosecution: Zahid’s lawyers ‘fitting square peg in round hole’, charity’s RM10.3m cheques to companies not for poverty eradication

·9-min read
Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is pictured at Kuala Lumpur High Court October 4, 2021. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is pictured at Kuala Lumpur High Court October 4, 2021. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 13 — Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s lawyers had been trying to justify his use of Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds to give out RM10 million to a coal supplying company and RM360,000 to a voter registration firm, but these companies ultimately do not fit within the charity’s aims of eradicating poverty, the prosecution told the High Court today.

The prosecution was responding to Ahmad Zahid’s lawyers’ attempts to explain the use of Yayasan Akalbudi cheques to pay out money to the two companies, as well as to give RM1.3 million to the Persatuan Bola Sepak Polis Diraja Malaysia or the police football association.

These cheques form part of the criminal breach of trust charges that Ahmad Zahid is facing, where the former deputy prime minister is accused of having dishonestly misappropriated Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds that were entrusted to him as the charity’s trustee.

Lead prosecutor Datuk Raja Rozela Raja Toran today said that Ahmad Zahid’s lawyers had tried to cite minor or secondary objectives in Yayasan Akalbudi’s company constitution, but argued that they had ultimately failed as the use of the foundation’s money would still have to meet the main purpose of helping the poor.

“My observation is that the defence picked on random words that appear in the incidental objects they pick on the word ‘training’, the word ‘loan’, they pick on the word ‘investment’. And they used these random words which appeared in incidental objects to justify the use of the cheques.

“My submission is that, My Lord, what they are actually doing is trying to fit in a square peg into a round hole.

“And to do that, My Lord, would result in inevitable failure because the thing is this — the incidental objects appearing in the Articles of Association must be read in line with the main object, which is eradicating poverty and enhancement of the welfare of the poor,” she said.

She pointed out that Yayasan Akalbudi’s company constitution had stated “to this end” after listing poverty eradication and enhancing the welfare of the poor before listing down the incidental objectives allowed for the use of its funds.

Raja Rozela had pointed out that “gifting or lending money to a businessman such as Armada Holdings or a football team or political consultancy firm is not charity” by any stretch of imagination, and that such use of Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds would further not be considered as a “means to eradicate poverty”.

Armada Holdings Sdn Bhd CEO Datuk Wasi Khan is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court December 11, 2019. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Armada Holdings Sdn Bhd CEO Datuk Wasi Khan is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court December 11, 2019. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

RM10m loan not for poverty eradication, prosecution says

Ahmad Zahid’s lawyers had previously sought to explain their client’s RM10 million payment in December 2015 using Yayasan Akalbudi’s cheque to company Armada Holdings as both a loan and investment for the charitable foundation, as the company had repaid the RM10 million along with interest. (Armada Holdings CEO Datuk Wasi Khan @ Wasiyu Zama Israr had previously told the court that the company had in February 2016 repaid the RM10 million along with a four per cent interest totalling RM69,722.65 as he felt responsible after being told that Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds were for the poor and orphans.)

Ahmad Zahid’s lawyers had also cited an ancillary objective of Yayasan Akalbudi to justify the RM10 million cheque, namely the secondary purpose of using the foundation’s money — which it does not immediately need — to “invest in Malaysia” from time to time in such manner as its board of trustees may think fit.

Raja Rozela however did not mince her words in saying that this RM10 million cheque was actually a loan and which ultimately goes against Yayasan Akalbudi’s purpose of doing away with poverty.

“Giving a loan and to be paid back surplus interest — that is not investment, that is money lending. It does not fall, by any measure, within the ambits of the objects of the foundation,” she said, highlighting that dishonest intention is established once it is shown that a person has used money they were entrusted with outside of the purpose intended.

She pointed out that Armada Holdings Sdn Bhd itself is a business set up to import and supply coal to Tenaga Nasional Berhad and that it has “absolutely nothing to do with poverty” or for poverty eradication, and ultimately argued that Ahmad Zahid had committed criminal breach of trust in relation to the RM10 million given to this company.

“There was misappropriation by the accused made with dishonest intention to use up RM10 million of Akalbudi’s amount.

“The fact it was paid back, the so-called interest — if that is to be translated as a profit to Yayasan Akalbudi — does not work in this sense, My Lord. Because the main thing is that Akalbudi cannot give a loan to a business entity like Armada Holdings, it does not sync with the objects and establishment of Yayasan Akalbudi,” she said.

Datuk Seri Wan Ahmad Wan Omar is seen at the Kuala Lumpur High Court December 11, 2019. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Datuk Seri Wan Ahmad Wan Omar is seen at the Kuala Lumpur High Court December 11, 2019. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

Firm helping to register voters, not to end poverty

As for the total RM360,000 given in two cheques in 2015 and 2016 using Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds and bearing Ahmad Zahid’s signature which were given to TS Consultancy & Resources, Raja Rozela noted that Ahmad Zahid’s lawyers had tried to argue that this company was not set up for registration of voters as the Companies Commission of Malaysia’s records show its business to be organising training including for motivational purposes.

“Now even though SSM (Companies Commission of Malaysia) records state so, in reality, however, TS Consultancy was a political arm of the then ruling government and it was established specifically to assist in registration of voters in certain areas,” Raja Rozela said of the company that was set up in February 2015 but became defunct in May 2017.

Ahmad Zahid’s lawyers had claimed that the giving of RM360,000 to the company was not wrongful as Yayasan Akalbudi’s incidental objectives include providing “facilities” including for “training”, Raja Rozela noted that the charity’s objectives would include training only for poverty-linked matters while TS Consultancy & Resources is a political consultancy firm unrelated to poverty matters.

“TS was set up to help voters, TS was not set up to help eradicate poverty,” she said, adding that the Yayasan Akalbudi’s incidental objectives could not be read so widely to the point that it ignores the main objective of the foundation’s establishment to eradicate poverty.

Among other things, Raja Rozela had highlighted the previous court testimony given by Datuk Seri Wan Ahmad Wan Omar, who was both the former Election Commission (EC) deputy chairman and the special officer to two deputy prime ministers — Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and subsequently Ahmad Zahid.

Raja Rozela said Wan Ahmad had as the 18th prosecution witness told the court that Muhyiddin had asked him to set up TS Consultancy to help Barisan Nasional register voters in certain areas, and that the company’s budget was decided in a special meeting at Umno headquarters chaired by then deputy prime minister Muhyiddin and attended by Umno leaders such as Ahmad Zahid.

“What is most obvious here is this, that the accused was well aware of TS Consultancy’s role when he was present at the special meeting back then with then with then DPM about the role, about the management costs, wages, operating costs in TS Consultancy,” she said, adding that the fact that Ahmad Zahid’s lawyers had never challenged the statement regarding his presence at the special meeting meant that he had “knew all along” what the company was for.

Raja Rozela also said Wan Ahmad’s words regarding the company must surely “carry some weight” as he was a special officer to two deputy prime ministers.

Raja Rozela highlighted that Ahmad Zahid’s lawyers had also sought to rely on Wan Ahmad and TS Consultancy’s co-owner Sabri Said’s agreement that some of the RM360,000 was used to provide food and transportation for the company’s staff and voters in order to suggest that this amounts to “acts of charity” and falls within Yayasan Akalbudi’s objects of being a charitable foundation.

Raja Rozela said however that the defence was merely zeroing in on any words that they could use to justify the use of Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds, saying: “Your Lordship will see on one hand, the defence says TS Consultancy is not for registration of voters, but on the other hand, they happily accepted the fact that TS Consultancy was indeed helping voters to register. So My Lord, our contention is that the defence’s challenge is weak and does no damage to the prosecution’s case.”

She argued that Sabri, the company’s other co-owner Jasni Majid, Wan Ahmad were credible prosecution witnesses and had no reason to lie in court about the real work that they do, noting that all three witnesses had maintained the purpose of the company was in relation to voter registration.

Raja Rozela noted that a document examiner had concluded that the first Yayasan Akalbudi cheque for RM100,000 to TS was “most probably signed” by Ahmad Zahid and that the second cheque for RM260,000 to TS was possibly signed by Ahmad Zahid.

She said Wan Ahmad had testified to having personally witnessed Ahmad Zahid signing the RM100,000 cheque, while Ahmad Zahid’s former executive secretary Major Mazlina Mazlan @ Ramly had testified that she had been instructed to prepare a cheque by filling up the date, the RM260,000 amount and TS as the recipient and that Ahmad Zahid had then signed it.

“So I humbly submit, based on the oral and documentary evidence that we have produced, it has been established conclusively that the accused had dishonestly misappropriated funds belonging to Akalbudi in favour of TS Consultancy & Resources when he issued the two cheques,” she said.

In this trial, Ahmad Zahid ― who is also a former home minister and currently the Umno president ― is facing 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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