A company director testified today that a cheque from the company to law firm Lewis & Co’s trustee account for RM447,773.42 was used to pay off gangsters from disrupting a bridge construction project in Klang, Selangor in 2016.
Cergas Murni director Paul Latimer testified during former deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s Yayasan Akalbudi graft trial that the Maybank cheque dated March 29, 2016, was to pay protection money to these gangsters, but he did not specify who these gangsters specifically are.
According to the charges against Zahid in the current trial for corruption, criminal breach of trust and money laundering of millions of ringgit from Yayasan Akalbudi, he was alleged to have received RM65 million through Lewis & Co law firm, among others.
Latimer, 79, said the reason for the payment during examination-in-chief by deputy public prosecutor Harris Ong Mohd Jeffery Ong in open-court proceedings before the Kuala Lumpur High Court this morning.
Harris was asking the 73rd prosecution witness about Paragraph 8 of the latter’s witness statement, where it stated that the RM447,773.42 cheque was handed to a moneychanger, one Omar Ali, to “resolve the problem” during the third bridge construction project in Klang, Selangor, between 2014 and 2017. Cergas Murni was involved in the project.
“We had some problems when we were building the bridge in Klang. There was disruption by gangsters, among others, and the money was used to resolve the matter,” Latimer said.
The witness explained that after a discussion with his partners in the company, it was decided for the payment to be made.
Previously on June 16, it was reported that the 60th prosecution witness Khatijah Sulaiman @ Suleiman, who is also a director of Cergas Murni, testified that the RM447,773.42 was among the three cheques totalling RM1,011,520 that was handed to Omar in 2016.
Harris: What do the gangsters have anything to do with the (bridge construction) project?
Latimer: Around Klang town at that time, there were a lot of issues with gangsters there. They wanted protection money.
Harris: What does the RM447,773.42 have to do with this? How was the money used?
Latimer: It was used to pay the gangsters.
According to Paragraph 9 of Latimer’s witness statement in relation to the RM447,773.42, he said it was proposed by business partners that Omar could help resolve the issue, among others.
Other parts of the witness statement also confirmed Khatijah’s previous testimony on the payment of the total RM1 million-plus, among others.
During cross-examination by Zahid’s defence counsel Rosal Azimin Ahmad, Latimer clarified that only a part of the RM1 million-plus in the three cheques was utilised to resolve the issue with the gangsters.
Latimer agreed with the defence counsel that the other parts of the total were also utilised for business operational expenses, among others.
The witness agreed with Rosal that the three cheques have nothing to do with Zahid as he (the witness) neither knows the accused personally nor have any dealings with the accused.
Latimer also concurred that the dealings involving the three cheques were legal and that Cergas Murni was not involved in money laundering, among others.
Proceedings before Collin Lawrence Sequerah will resume on July 14.
Zahid is on trial for alleged criminal breach of trust (CBT), graft, and money-laundering in relation to funds held by Yayasan Akalbudi which was supposed to be a charitable foundation.
In the present trial, he faces a total of 47 charges, namely 12 for CBT, eight counts of corruption and 27 counts of money laundering.