Zahid denies using law firm to launder money, intentionally not recording dodgy donations

·6-min read
Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, July 7 — Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi denied in court today that illegally-sourced donations were why he did not personally keep written records of donors and their amounts to his charity Yayasan Akalbudi.

Insisting that he had verbally instructed law firm Lewis & Co to be the trustee to handle Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds in a client account, Ahmad Zahid today also denied that he was merely using the law firm to launder illegal funds.

Testifying in his own defence in his trial over his alleged receiving of bribes and alleged involvement in money laundering, Ahmad Zahid maintained that purported donations — to the tune of millions of ringgit — were all for charity.

Ahmad Zahid previously testified that he would direct donors to make their cheques payable to Lewis & Co’s client account, where funds were kept purportedly on Yayasan Akalbudi’s behalf.

Ahmad Zahid confirmed that the donations via these cheques can only be identified through a ledger prepared by Lewis & Co, as well as bank-in slips.

Ahmad Zahid agreed that the law firm’s ledger had recorded the dates, the cheque number, and the amount of money in the cheques which were banked in to the client account, further agreeing that these recorded details would enable the original cheques given by the donors to be found.

Deputy public prosecutor Harris Ong Mohd Jeffery Ong then asked if Ahmad Zahid personally “cannot tell who are the donors” without there being Lewis & Co or its partner Muralidharan Balan Pillai and without the ledger prepared by the law firm.

Ahmad Zahid agreed with this suggestion.

Harris: So, all this was done, because you trust the intention and the akad (verbal agreement) of donors. Secondly, you trust Lewis & Co, Muralidharan will do their work professionally, that’s why you did it like that.

Ahmad Zahid: Agreed.

Harris: Do you agree with me, there is no interest for you to record who is donor A, how many millions, donor B, how many millions, donor C, how many millions, because what is important is they are sincere, they trust you, and most importantly Lewis & Co will take care of those funds.

Ahmad Zahid: Agreed.

But Ahmad Zahid then disagreed when asked if he had done so as all the funds were not owned by the government of Malaysia or by citizens, but because they were owned by Yayasan Akalbudi which he had formed and that Yayasan Akalbudi funds were donated by the public who trusted he will manage it as best as he can.

Harris then appeared to suggest that Ahmad Zahid had deliberately not kept any written records of his own on the donations, but Ahmad Zahid disagreed.

Harris: I have to say to you, you yourself chose to not do so — namely to record the name of donors and the amount or any other necessary records on the cheques that were said to be received as donations — you chose not to do so?

Ahmad Zahid: Disagree.

Harris: The reason why I said that, is because the funds that you received, are proceeds from illegal activities as per Act 613 (anti-money laundering law)?

Ahmad Zahid: Disagree.

Harris: And secondly, I also say you only used Lewis & Co’s client account for activities of laundering illegal funds for you.

Ahmad Zahid: Disagree and also never, Yang Arif.

Harris: Thirdly, all this, I say to you, you did it purely for your own personal interests.

Ahmad Zahid: Disagree and I reject it totally.

Ahmad Zahid is facing 47 charges, namely 12 counts of criminal breach of trust in relation to RM31 million of charitable foundation Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds, 27 counts of money-laundering, and eight counts of bribery charges.

Yayasan Akalbudi was established with the stated aim of eradicating poverty and enhancing the welfare of the poor, with Ahmad Zahid being one of its trustees and, later, also its sole signatory for cheques.

Ahmad Zahid’s trial before High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah resumes on August 5, with the prosecution expected to cross-examine him on the corruption charges.

Before the trial resumes in the Kuala Lumpur court complex here, the judge, the prosecution and the defence would be making a visit on August 1 to two houses — described as “bungalows” throughout this trial — in Country Heights in Kajang, Selangor which were purchased in 2017 using RM5.9 million of Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds.

On June 23, 2016, all of the RM17.9 million Yayasan Akalbudi had placed in fixed deposits in Affin Bank were shifted via a banker’s cheque to Lewis & Co’s client account at Maybank, with this transfer being done on Ahmad Zahid’s instructions.

Ahmad Zahid had said this fund transfer was made as he wanted the law firm which had accounting staff to handle Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds instead of his then executive secretary Major Mazlina Mazlan @ Ramly.

During the May 2016 to April 2018 period, Lewis & Co’s client account at Maybank — which the law firm insists is being held for Ahmad Zahid’s brother’s Yayasan Al-Falah instead — had received over RM76 million via 92 cheques and banker’s cheques. The law firm’s partner Muralidharan previously said he had received these cheques from Ahmad Zahid and that the latter had told him the money was for religious and charitable purposes.

Most of these monies were placed in fixed deposits by Lewis & Co, but some of the funds were used to make five payments in cheques issued by the law firm, including an RM8.6 million cheque dated June 30, 2016 for the purchase of shares in Bali hotel owner Ri-Yaz Assets Sdn Bhd, and the RM5.9 million cheque dated January 4, 2017 to Bee Garden Holdings Sdn Bhd for the purchase of two houses in Country Heights.

The other three payments are RM500,000 to Yayasan Restu via a cheque dated January 10, 2017, a RM900,000 cheque dated August 17, 2017 to Yayasan Akalbudi and a RM1 million cheque dated January 11, 2018 to Teknik Sempurna (M) Sdn Bhd.

Ahmad Zahid today disputed the RM900,000 payment in August 2017 to Yayasan Akalbudi, as he believed the foundation had closed its current account at Affin Bank in June 2016 when all its RM17.9 million in fixed deposits were transferred to Lewis & Co for the law firm to handle.

Harris today showed him Yayasan Akalbudi’s Affin Bank account statement, however, where it was shown that RM900,000 was banked in on August 17, 2017 and which boosted the account balance to over RM1 million, and which also shown the last recorded transaction on May 28, 2018 resulting in the account having only a balance of RM10.06.