Sunday, October 24, 2021

Zahid extended UKSB visa contract 3 years ahead of expiry, witness tells court

Former home ministry immigration affairs division deputy secretary Siti Jalilah Abd Manap says there was no need for this.

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The High Court was told today that former deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had extended Ultra Kirana Sdn Bhd’s (UKSB) contract for the foreign visa system (VLN) project even though the existing contract still had three years left to go.

Former home ministry immigration affairs division deputy secretary Siti Jalilah Abd Manap said the approval issued by Zahid, 68, who was also home minister at the time, for the extension of the contract was too early and not according to government protocol.

“There was no need, the contract had not yet expired,” the third prosecution witness said when asked by deputy public prosecutor Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin about the need to extend the contract immediately on the third day of the trial of Zahid, who is facing 40 corruption charges relating to the VLN.

She said UKSB requested approval to extend the implementation of the VLN and e-VISA system for six years from Oct 31, 2019, to the end of 2025, three years before the previous contract ended on Oct 31, 2019, even though based on Clause 2.2.1 of the initial VLN system agreement, UKSB could ask for an extension no less than six months before the end of the contract.

“UKSB’s letter dated Feb 8, 2017, was included in the minutes by Zahid, which read: ‘Dato’ Sri KSU, as the home ministry was satisfied with the company’s service, please extend the implementation of the VLN & e-VISA contract for six years till 2025.’

“Zahid, on March 1, 2017, agreed to extend the VLN contract for six years, but the VLN’s ceiling rate for VLN charges and contract terms for extension purposes needed to be renegotiated, taking into consideration profit sharing with the government based on the collection of VLN charges,” she said when reading her witness statement.

Siti Jalilah added that after reaching a decision on March 1, 2017, supplementary minutes entitled “VLN Contract Extension Application” were prepared to forward the recommendation to Zahid, including the contract period and VLN work scope for six years from 2019 until 2025, to the Public-Private Partnership Unit (Ukas) and the Prime Minister’s Department to consider getting the Cabinet approval according to existing financial protocol.

“Then, supplementary minutes dated June 15, 2017, and the UKSB letter were minuted by Zahid as follows: ‘Dato’ Sri KSU (secretary-general), Please extend VLN/e-Visa contract till 2022 & no need to forward to UKAS & Cabinet. Please expedite,'” she said.

When asked by Wan Shaharudin if all the letters breached protocol, she said, “Yes, because instructions and protocols for contracts need to be forwarded to Ukas for approval from the Cabinet (during Cabinet meetings).”

Wan Shaharuddin: Why the need to bring it to Ukas?

Siti Jalilah: Because it involves the use of public source financing and the project received more than RM25 million.

Siti Jalilah also told the court that Zahid had approved the application to extend the implementation period of the contract for the one-stop centre for visa facilitation services in China.

However, the witness said the contract was extended for only three years from 2018 until 2021.

“The supplementary minutes were signed by Zahid on July 24, 2017, under the home minister’s decision area by writing ‘Approved extension till 2021 without being brought to Ukas or MJM (Cabinet meeting) as agreed upon in previous VLN. This agreement is effective from May 15, 2018, till May 14, 2021, for the period of three years,'” she said.

Zahid, 68, faces 33 charges of receiving bribes worth S$13.56 million from UKSB as an inducement for himself, as a public official, the home minister, to extend the company’s contract as the operator of the one-stop centre service in China and the VLN system as well as maintaining the agreement contract to supply the integrated VLN system by the same company to the home ministry.

He is charged with committing the offences at Seri Satria, Presint 16, Putrajaya and at Country Heights, Kajang between October 2014 and March 2018 under Section 16 (a)(B) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009, punishable under Section 24(1) of the same act, which stipulates a maximum jail term of 20 years and a fine of five times the bribe amount or RM10,000, whichever is higher, upon conviction.

For the other seven counts, Zahid is charged as home minister with accepting S$1,150,000, RM3,000,000, €15,000 (RM75,663) and US$15,000 (RM62,115) in cash from the same company which he knew had a connection with his function as home minister.

He is charged with committing the offence at Country Heights between June 2015 and October 2017 under Section 165 of the Penal Code which warrants a maximum jail sentence of two years, a fine or both upon conviction.

The hearing before judge Mohd Yazid Mustafa continues on June 1.

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