Zahid’s trial: Judge to visit two Country Heights ‘bungalows’, declines to view mosque in Perak

·4-min read
Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, July 7 — High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah will visit on August 1 two houses within the Country Heights township in Kajang, Selangor, which were purchased in 2017 using RM5.9 million of Yayasan Akalbudi funds.

This date was decided on at the end of proceedings today for Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s corruption, money laundering and criminal breach of trust trial.

At the end of proceedings today, Ahmad Zahid’s lawyer Datuk Ahmad Zaidi Zainal suggested August 1 as the date for the visit, while lead prosecutor Datuk Raja Rozela Raja Toran confirmed that August 1 was a date that had been discussed earlier.

Ahmad Zahid’s lead defence lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik today made another application to invite the judge to visit a mosque in Bagan Datuk, Perak, arguing that this would be important for his defence.

“I have a further application, to invite My Lord and also the prosecution perhaps to also visit the mosque in Bagan Datuk. It is only about two to three hours from there, and that’s the crux of the defence as well, to say that the bulk of donation goes to the construction of the mosque, it is 80 per cent ready, it will be officiated by the royal highness.

“A visit by My Lord would be very useful in appreciation of the defence,” Hisyam said.

The judge then asked if photographs of the mosque could be produced instead, but Hisyam said: “A visual visit would be very useful to the defence, because it is the thrust of the defence, that the bulk of funds — let’s say Junaith — goes to the construction of the mosque.”

Textile wholesaler Junaith Asharab Md Shariff is one of the many businessmen Ahmad Zahid claimed had donated by cash or cheque, with Junaith’s contribution via cheques running in the millions of ringgit.

The judge then asked if a video could be taken instead as an alternative to “save time” and also noted that the mosque is two to three hours’ away.

Raja Rozela also said: “It is not really the crux of the issue, we don’t have any issue whether the mosque is standing or not, so I think it’s not necessary for the defence.”

Hisyam then suggested that this invitation be left open first and be revisited after the judge views the two properties in Country Heights, with the judge then also agreeing to leave it open for another time but also said he was not inclined for now to visit the mosque in Bagan Datuk.

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.

The law firm had withdrawn a total of RM7 million in fixed deposits — including RM5 million in alleged donations via cheques from Junaith and RM2 million also purportedly a donation from businessman Mubarak Hussain Akhtar Husin that waw banked in to the client account previously — before issuing the funds for the RM5.9 million cheque for the Country Heights properties' purchase.

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.

Previously, Ahmad Zahid said the two lots of land with two “bungalows” already built on them were purchased for the purpose of setting up a Quran studies centre for retirees and for tahfiz students who wish to learn and memorise the Quran.

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.

Ahmad Zahid’s trial resumes on August 5, with the prosecution expected to cross-examine him on the corruption charges that he is facing.

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