Zahid's trial: MACC officer says no receipts to show charity donated RM7.5m, cash-to-cheques venture was to launder money

Ida Lim
·6-min read
Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court in Kuala Lumpur March 8, 2021. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court in Kuala Lumpur March 8, 2021. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, March 9 — There were no receipts from charity foundation Yayasan Albukhary to show that it handed over cash totalling more than RM7.5 million as “donations”, a Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) investigator told the High Court today in Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s money-laundering trial.

Instead, MACC investigator Mohd Fahmee Mohamad Nor said that the millions of ringgit in cash that were given to Bukit Bintang-based money-changer Omar Ali Abdullah and which were converted into 35 cheques was effectively to launder money that originated from dubious sources.

He told the court that the money was given by strangers or men unknown to Omar Ali.

Mohd Fahmee was testifying as the 95th prosecution witness. He was responding to questions from Zahid's defence lawyer Datuk Ahmad Zaidi Zainal who highlighted Omar Ali's previous testimony in court as the 81st prosecution witness.

Among other things, Omar Ali had previously claimed that Zahid had told him that donors would contact him to pass him cash, and that Zahid had said all the donors who will contact him are from Yayasan Albukhary.

Omar Ali had also said that different unknown Malay individuals who claimed to be from Yayasan Albukhary had contacted him on different occasions, and passed him the cash in places such as hotel lobbies in Bukit Bintang. He added that it was a different person each time.

Asked by Zaidi, Mohd Fahmee confirmed that he had not recorded a statement from Yayasan Albukhary's Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Albukhary, despite the source of "donations" being said to be from the foundation.

Zaidi pointed to Mohd Fahmee's witness statement, which claimed that Omar Ali said the cash he received were from unknown individuals and which were converted into cheques before being banked into the law firm Lewis & Co according to Zahid's instructions.

But the defence lawyer challenged Mohd Fahmee's witness statement and argued that the cash came from Yayasan Albukhary. He pointed out that Omar Ali had previously testified that the conversion of cash into cheques was his own initiative and not Zahid's instructions.

Again, Zaidi referred to Omar Ali’s witness statement that said Zahid had only asked the money-changer to help manage the deposit of cash into the account of Yayasan Akalbudi -- a foundation in which Zahid is both a trustee and director.

Zaidi: What Datuk Seri Zahid had asked Omar Ali to do, if it is true, is to help handle the depositing of cash into Yayasan Akalbudi, it was never stated 'please help to deposit cheques into Yayasan Akalbudi', can you agree, based on this (witness statement)?

Mohd Fahmee: Agree.

The MACC officer also confirmed that Omar Ali had not been charged in court for giving false testimony in this case.

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

Under questioning by deputy public prosecutor Harris Ong Mohd Jeffery Ong, Mohd Fahmee explained that the MACC investigation in Zahid's case was a wide investigation involving many witnesses from different companies. He added that many MACC officers had spent a long time on the money trail, including scrutinising the cheques.

Mohd Fahmee confirmed that he did not look at Yayasan Albukhary's accounts and did not record a statement from Syed Mokhtar.

But he explained that he had recorded statements from Omar Ali as he was personally involved, and also from Omar Ali's friends who had given cheques to the moneychanger in exchange for the cash.

Harris: Specifically, why was there no statement recorded from Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar or any representatives of Yayasan Albukhary, why was there no need to record?

Mohd Fahmee: A statement was not recorded from Tan Sri Albukhary because Omar Ali said he did not know the person who gave, they were just individuals who came and gave the money, and these instructions are all from the accused, which is Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi.

Harris: Besides Omar Ali's statement, what is the reason that caused you to decide to not go deeper into the investigations on Yayasan Albukhary?

Mohd Fahmee: As I said, among the reasons is that Omar Ali does not know the individuals when receiving the money. Besides Omar Ali, we investigated the cheques that had been issued by Omar Ali's friends to be deposited into Lewis and Co. As the investigating officer, I view this as a process of laundering money from suspicious sources.

At this point, Zahid's other defence lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik stood up and objected to Mohd Fahmi’s explanation, arguing that it amounted to an opinion.

When asked further by Harris if his investigations show the source of cash to be from Yayasan Albukhary, Mohd Fahmee said: "No."

The 95th prosecution witness also confirmed that he was not contacted by anyone from Yayasan Albukhary after Omar Ali's testimony in court in Zahid's trial.

Harris: Throughout the investigation, besides Omar Ali, did any witness say the source of the funds come from Yayasan Albukhary?

Mohd Fahmee: No, furthermore in our investigation, we did not find any receipts from this Yayasan Albukhary.

Mohd Fahmee was the investigating officer who had carried out investigations that formed the basis of the 27th money-laundering charge against Zahid.

In the 27th money-laundering charge, Zahid is accused of having committed money-laundering by allegedly involving himself directly in transactions involving proceeds from illegal activities, by allegedly ordering Omar Ali to convert RM7,511,250.20 worth of cash into 35 cheques to be deposited into the law firm Lewis & Co to purchase fixed deposits in Maybank.

The previous version of this charge had accused Zahid of being involved in money-laundering by allegedly ordering Omar Ali to convert RM6.885 million of illegal funds into 30 cheques, but the charge was amended this morning to reflect the figures of RM7,511,250.20 and 35 cheques as had been testified by Omar Ali and Mohd Fahmee in court.

In this trial, Zahid ― who is a former deputy prime minister and currently the Umno president ― 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 trial before High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah resumes this afternoon.

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