KUALA LUMPUR, June 29 — Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi today insisted in court that the two cheques worth RM360,000 in August 2015 and November 2016 issued by his charity Yayasan Akalbudi to the company TS Consultancy & Resources was for the printing of al-Quran.
Ahmad Zahid said this while testifying in his own defence in his trial over alleged criminal breach of trust over the funds of Yayasan Akalbudi, a foundation that aims to eradicate poverty and where he is a trustee and its sole signatory for cheques.
During cross-examination, lead prosecutor Datuk Raja Rozela Raja Toran suggested that the company TS Consultancy & Resources was to “help Umno to register voters”, but Ahmad Zahid disagreed.
Raja Rozela: I say to you, TS Consultancy was actually formed on your own party’s initiative which is Umno.
Ahmad Zahid: Outside of my knowledge.
Raja Rozela: As the vice president of Umno at that time, you agree that maybe you were excluded from that information?
Ahmad Zahid: Never discussed in the supreme council, what more to the vice president.
Previously, Datuk Seri Wan Ahmad Wan Omar who was the chairman of TS Consultancy had told this trial that the company was set up on then deputy prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s 2015 instructions, in order to help Barisan Nasional and the ruling government to register voters.
Wan Ahmad had previously also testified in court that the company’s staff’s salaries and allowances were paid using funds given by Umno’s headquarters, and that a special meeting held at Umno headquarters — which was chaired by Muhyiddin and attended by Umno officials such as Ahmad Zahid — had decided on the budget for the company’s salaries and operation costs.
But when asked by Raja Rozela about Wan Ahmad’s testimony that the company was paid by funds from Umno headquarters, Ahmad Zahid replied: “I do not know“.
Raja Rozela questioned him about his alleged lack of knowledge that Umno had paid TS Consultancy even though he was said to have been briefed along with Muhyiddin about this company, but Ahmad Zahid insisted that he was “never briefed about that“.
Datuk Seri Wan Ahmad Wan Omar is seen at the Kuala Lumpur High Court December 10, 2019. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Throughout his testimony today, Ahmad Zahid continued to insist that the cheques totalling RM360,000 was issued by Yayasan Akalbudi for the purpose of charity in the form of printing al-Quran, which is the Muslims’ holy book.
Ahmad Zahid said he had known Wan Ahmad since the latter was deputy chairman of the Election Commission, and confirmed that Wan Ahmad later served as special officer to then deputy prime minister and then Umno deputy president Muhyiddin.
At the time when Wan Ahmad was Muhyiddin’s special officer — a role that is not established for each deputy prime minister, Ahmad Zahid said he himself was Umno vice-president, defence minister and home minister.
Wan Ahmad was the special officer to Muhyiddin who was deputy prime minister from January 2014 to 2015, and had later continued serving as special officer to Ahmad Zahid — when he replaced Muhyiddin as deputy prime minister in July 2015. Wan Ahmad was Ahmad Zahid’s special officer up until July 31, 2018.
Ahmad Zahid today confirmed that Wan Ahmad had pleaded for his services as special officer to the deputy prime minister to be continued and had also asked for promotion from the civil servant rank of Jusa A to Jusa B, confirmed that he had agreed to both retain Wan Ahmad’s role and the request for promotion.
Ahmad Zahid explained that while the special officer role was established by his predecessor Muhyiddin, Wan Ahmad had to make the plea as it was the right of the deputy prime minister to either terminate or continue that job.
Asked if Wan Ahmad as an ordinary human would feel indebted to Ahmad Zahid as he agreed to both extend his services and promote him, Ahmad Zahid said he did not feel that Wan Ahmad felt indebted to him.
When Raja Rozela suggested that Wan Ahmad had no reason to lie in court when he said that Ahmad Zahid actually knew why TS Consultancy was formed, Ahmad Zahid replied: “I was not told by him, but as far as I know, he intended to carry out charity through the printing of al-Quran.”
Raja Rozela: That is something new Datuk Seri, for you to say that Datuk Seri Wan Ahmad intended to carry out charity by printing al-Quran. Did he tell you he wanted to print al-Quran, carry out charity by printing under TS Consultancy or not?
Ahmad Zahid: He did say his intention is to seek for aid towards that direction.
While Raja Rozela said Wan Ahmad had in August 2015 briefed Ahmad Zahid about TS Consultancy’s financial standing and need for financial aid from him as the deputy prime minister, Ahmad Zahid insisted otherwise: “What was told to me, he said the printing of Quran was given the mandate by Yayasan Restu, where Datuk Latiff is the chairman and Datuk Wan Ahmad is one of the panel members appointed by Yayasan Restu to find funds for the printing of al-Quran.
Disagreeing with Wan Ahmad’s testimony that he had provided a briefing on the company needing money from Umno to pay its staff salaries and allowances, Ahmad Zahid insisted that the former’s briefing was only on the need to print and circulate the Quran.
For the first Yayasan Akalbudi cheque for the sum of RM100,000 dated August 20, 2015, Ahmad Zahid confirmed that he had prepared it and signed it to be issued to TS Consultancy.
As for the second Yayasan Akalbudi cheque for the sum of RM260,000 dated November 25, 2016, Ahmad Zahid said his former executive secretary Major Mazlina Mazlan @ Ramly had prepared the cheque on his instruction but insisted that it was for the purpose of printing Quran, and also said he did not remember where he had signed this cheque.
Ahmad Zahid agreed that TS Consultancy and Yayasan Restu are two different entities, also agreeing that the printing of Quran was not directly related to Yayasan Akalbudi.
But Ahmad Zahid insisted that the printing of Quran was indirectly included in Yayasan Akalbudi’s objectives in its memorandum and articles of association (M&A), otherwise known as its company constitution.
Agreeing that the printing of Quran had nothing to do with TS Consultancy, Ahmad Zahid however claimed that there was a briefing regarding such intentions.
In this trial, Ahmad Zahid — who is also a former home minister — 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 preamble for Yayasan Akalbudi’s company constitution states that its objective is to receive and administer funds for eradication of poverty, and to enhance the welfare of the poor and conduct research for poverty eradication programmes.
The trial before High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah resumes tomorrow morning.