Zahid says was entitled as DPM to bring wife, officers along on official overseas trips

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 29 — Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi today told the High Court that he could bring along his wife for official trips outside of Malaysia when he was the former deputy prime minister.

Ahmad Zahid said this while testifying in his own defence against 47 charges against him.

His lawyer Datuk Ahmad Zaidi Zainal today asked whether his overseas trips — where multiple credit card transactions were recorded from late 2013 to January 2016 — were official trips or personal holidays.

In confirming that these overseas trips were for official visits, Ahmad Zahid replied: “Yang Arif, as the number two person in the government then, many duties were given to me as the home minister and also deputy prime minister, visits or trips to overseas were official duties carried out by me.

“And a deputy prime minister is entitled to bring along the wife and officers who are eligible to also be together for overseas visits on those official duties. Therefore that Treasury rule was fully followed by me in those official visits overseas,” he added.

Ahmad Zahid was announced in late July 2015 to be the deputy prime minister and continued holding this post until May 2018, and had also been home minister from 2013 to May 2018.

Last month, Ahmad Zahid verified in court that his personal credit card statements from December 2013 to January 2016 had recorded expenditures that were all for “personal spending”, and had also asserted that all the spending on overseas trips recorded in these statements were for official visits abroad.

Based on details in the credit card statements that Ahmad Zahid had previously verified in court, the spending was recorded overseas nearly every month, such as in London and Manchester in December 2013, Australia in February, March, April, May 2014, Hong Kong (April 2014), Vietnam (May 2014), Dubai (July 2014), Ukraine and UK (August 2014), US (September 2014), London and Taipei (October 2014), Milan in Italy and France (November 2014), Jakarta, Abu Dhabi and Dubai (December 2014).

He had also previously verified credit card statements for spending recorded in Dubai (January 2015), Abu Dhabi (April 2015), Korea and New York (May 2015), New York (June and July 2015), Jakarta (September 2015), US (October 2015), London (November 2015), Rome and Dubai (December 2015), and Korea (January 2016).

For such official trips abroad and for official events attended as a minister, Ahmad Zahid previously said officers who may accompany him include his principal private secretary, his private secretary, his political secretary, special officers and security officers from the police, while confirming that he would also be accompanied by officers in carrying out duties nationwide.

Previously, AmBank senior vice-president Yeoh Eng Leong as the 10th prosecution witness had in court confirmed credit card statements from December 2013 to January 2016 for Ahmad Zahid’s two principal credit cards and two supplementary credit cards for Ahmad Zahid’s wife, with total spending of RM1,479,085.44 or close to RM1.48 million during that period.

The AmBank credit card statements had shown that the credit card was used both locally and globally, including Indonesia, Vietnam, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia, US, UK, Italy, Ukraine and Dubai in the UAE.

The AmBank credit card statements had recorded spending in high-end fashion brands, such as Brioni in New York, Hermes in Milan and Rome in Italy, Burberry in Hong Kong and New York, Louis Vuitton in Australia and Jakarta, Giorgio Armani in Australia and Rome, Tod’s in Jakarta, Ermenegildo Zegna in London.

Previously, Maybank’s vice-president Anoop Singh Gulzara Singh as the ninth prosecution witness had also verified credit card statements in the 2014 to 2015 period for three credit cards issued to Ahmad Zahid, which showed credit card use including RM5,900 at Louis Vuitton’s KLCC outlet in June 2014, RM7,604.90 in Ukraine in August 2014, as well as RM30,635.80 and RM1,810.66 in Seoul, Korea in 2015.

When the payments received via cheques from Yayasan Akalbudi for the credit card bills at the two banks are totalled up, it would come up to a combined total of RM1,362,037.81 or slightly more than RM1.3 million.

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 to eradicate poverty and help 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 During the trial, Ahmad Zahid has however insisted that he had instructed his former executive secretary Major Mazlina Mazlan @ Ramly to use his personal bank account’s cheques to pay for his and his wife’s credit card bills and said there were sufficient funds in his personal account for such purposes, and had continued to blame Mazlina for using Yayasan Akalbudi cheques to make the credit card payments.

He had previously confirmed that throughout the time when Mazlina made the payments for his credit card bills, the credit cards held by him as the principal card holder and his wife as the supplementary card holder could be used without problem and without any instances of being blocked.

The trial before High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah resumes this afternoon.