Zahid says RM5.9m ‘bungalows’ purchased for public’s religious use, chose Country Heights as easy for him to monitor

·7-min read
Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, July 6 — Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi today continued to defend in court the decision to buy two houses in Country Heights in Kajang, Selangor in 2017 using RM5.9 million of his charity Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds, insisting that these were not for him to stay in but to enable the public to carry out their Islamic studies here.

Testifying in his own defence in his corruption and money laundering trial, Ahmad Zahid also claimed that the two houses — which he described as “bungalows” — were actually smaller than his own residence in the same Country Heights neighbourhood.

He also justified the decision to buy the two houses there instead of spending the RM5.9 million on other charitable purposes, as he said it would be easier for him to monitor the activities there if they were conducted in the same neighbourhood.

While agreeing that RM5.9 million is a huge amount of money, Ahmad Zahid however stressed that the two “bungalows” were purchased below the market price of RM12 million, while insisting that the two houses were bought for religious activities in line with the aims of Yayasan Akalbudi and his younger brother’s charity Yayasan Al-Falah for charity and Islamic studies.

Deputy public prosecutor Harris Ong Mohd Jeffery Ong today asked how Ahmad Zahid could justify the need for him to invest RM5.9 million to buy the two houses.

Ahmad Zahid then indicated that he did not want to brag but that his own house was bigger than the two properties, and insisted there was a need for these two houses to be bought for use for Islamic studies.

“As I have repeatedly said, the bungalows are not for residences or as my residence, I already have my own residence — without intending to be proud — which is bigger than those two bungalows, so the intention to have it become a pusat pengajian (centre for studies) and pusat tahfiz (tahfiz centre) was carried out,” he replied.

Harris: You can invest the RM5.9 million for charity, development in other places, there’s no need to buy the two units of bungalows for the purposes of charity.

Ahmad Zahid: Why need to buy at other places where I cannot monitor? Purchased in Country Heights because of the need for pusat pengajian and maahad tahfiz that I live nearby and which I can monitor from the aspect of monitoring, intake of students, payment of salaries and other needs of students and jemaah (the congregation) who come to study.

Harris: So that purchase is for your own convenience.

Ahmad Zahid: Not for my convenience, this is not for my own use, this is not for myself, but for the public, but for the jemaah, I have repeatedly been saying this in this court.

Harris questioned this by pointing out that the building of mosques in other locations such as Bagan Datuk in Perak and in Melaka would also need monitoring, and suggested there would be no problem if other more suitable locations were chosen for Yayasan Akalbudi to carry out its charity instead of the two Country Heights properties.

Ahmad Zahid then suggested that mosques, suraus or tahfiz centres or orphanages which Yayasan Akalbudi donated to would not require daily supervision as there would be others managing those buildings.

He also said that the two Country Heights houses — which he said were very old and 40-years-old — could be easily monitored as they were directly in front and adjacent to Surau An-Nur in Country Heights and also near his house.

Ahmad Zahid also clarified however that his house is located far from the two “bungalows” which he said were refurbished for Islamic study centres, even though these three properties were all located in the same neighbourhood.

Asked if he would go to Surau An-Nur in Country Heights for prayers as it was nearest to his house, Ahmad Zahid said he did not intend to brag but said that he was chairman of this surau previously and that a large part of donations for the surau were from him personally and from Yayasan Al-Falah, but also explained that he has a surau built in his own residence where his family could pray in.

Asked if those who use the facilities at the two Country Heights houses purchased at RM5.9 million are residents around the area, Ahmad Zahid said: “Not subject to residents. It is open, as I mentioned earlier, it’s for pensioners and retired people who would like to further their religious or Islamic knowledge taught by ustaz and ulama who come. And for maahad tahfiz students, it is not students from Country Heights, its students from all over the country who live there.”

Marzuki Che Omar is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court June 18, 2020. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Marzuki Che Omar is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court June 18, 2020. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Marzuki Che Omar is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court June 18, 2020. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Previously, contractor Marzuki Che Omar had as the 70th prosecution witness said that he had received cash totalling RM1.4 million personally handed over by Ahmad Zahid for renovations to a “bungalow” located at Lot 403 of Country Heights.

For the RM5.9 million purchase, the 1,872 square feet house at Lot 356 (HSD 24906 or PT No.20397) was priced at RM3 million, while the slightly smaller house measuring 1,787 square feet at Lot 403 (HSD 24881 or PT No.20372) was priced at RM2.9 million.

Asked today about these renovations which were paid in cash, Ahmad Zahid said the funds were from donors who knew about the renovation and refurbishment works, remarking: “I have many friends, although I don’t have positions in government, my friends did not run away, except for those who run away still run away.”

Confirming that it was him who had made the payments to the contractor, Ahmad Zahid said: “Because the donations by friends were given in cash, therefore I gave in cash.”

He said that there was no invoice for the renovation works, but said the contractor did sign to acknowledge receipt.

Asked if he had told the contractor where the money came from, Ahmad Zahid said there was no need to explain to the contractor as the donations came from various sources, while also adding that most of it were private donations from him and his siblings.

Ahmad Zahid insisted that the two Country Heights houses bought in 2017 were a donation from his charity Yayasan Akalbudi to his younger brother Datuk Seri Mohamad Nasaee Ahmad Tarmizi’s Yayasan Al-Falah and said this was donation was done verbally, while seeking to claim that the fact that Yayasan Al-Falah is the registered owner of the two properties on the land title supports this assertion.

Harris highlighted that the land titles only recorded Yayasan Al-Falah as the owner but did not state that it was given by Yayasan Akalbudi to Yayasan Al-Falah, and went on to suggest that this means there was no proof that Yayasan Akalbudi had given the properties to Yayasan Al-Falah.

Ahmad Zahid then replied: “No documents, but I have mentioned many times in this court that when it comes to donations, when the left hand gives, the right hand doesn’t need to know, this is for religious purposes, therefore the transfer to Yayasan Al-Falah is because Yayasan Al-Falah has sufficient officers and staff to handle all the assets that are owned by Yayasan Al-Falah, therefore on such circumstances, the land title was made under Yayasan Al-Falah’s name, not on Yayasan Akalbudi’s name.”

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.

One of the 27 money-laundering charges that Ahmad Zahid is facing alleges that he had engaged directly in a transaction that involves proceeds of unlawful activity, by giving instruction to buy the two “bungalow lots” for RM5.9 million using a cheque issued by the law firm Lewis & Co via a client account at Maybank, with the funds said to be illegal proceeds.

Throughout the trial, Ahmad Zahid and his lawyers have insisted that Lewis & Co is a trustee for Yayasan Akalbudi and holds funds on trust for it in a client account.

Yayasan Akalbudi was formed with the aim of eradicating poverty and helping the poor, and Ahmad Zahid is a trustee of the foundation and also its sole signatory for cheques.

Ahmad Zahid’s trial before High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah resumes this afternoon.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting