Sunday, September 26, 2021

Top Umno leaders, family members set to steal the limelight again

Bribes, money laundering, tax evasion – Umno politicians are set to make court appearances as they battle to avoid jail time, fines and a ban from active politics.

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A string of trials related to corruption charges involving senior Umno leaders as well as those connected to them has been lined up from now until June next year, as the focus shifts to them in the aftermath of the brief power vacuum which saw the party’s vice-president Ismail Sabri Yaakob appointed as prime minister.

At the top of the list is the ongoing trial of Najib Razak, on four counts of abusing his power to receive gratification worth RM2.28 billion, as well as 21 counts of money laundering involving over RM4.3 billion or what is known as the 1MDB-Tanore case.

The trial was postponed last Thursday when the former leader attended a session at Istana Negara to verify his letter of support for Ismail.

Najib is already convicted of seven charges related to the 1MDB scandal, of illegally receiving more than RM40 million in funds from SRC International.

A check of the court schedule for the 1MDB-Tanore trial shows a total of 75 days set between September 2021 and June 2022.

Closely following Najib’s trial is Umno secretary-general Ahmad Maslan’s case on money laundering and providing false statements, which will be heard for re-mention on Aug 24 at the High Court.

The Pontian MP was charged with money laundering for failing to declare RM2 million he had received from Najib in his 2013 tax submissions, as well as with giving false statements to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission on the matter. The hearing will begin in June next year.

Next is the trial of Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, which resumes on Aug 25.

The former home minister faces 20 years’ imprisonment on 33 charges of receiving bribes amounting to some RM42 million from a company to extend the contract as operator of the foreign visa system. Zahid is also accused of accepting bribes in various currencies – S$1,150,000, RM3,000,000, €15,000 and US$15,000 – from the same company.

Meanwhile, the trial for money laundering and failure to declare income involving Najib’s lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah will resume on Aug 27.

Shafee is facing charges of money laundering involving RM9.5 million said to be given by Najib, as well as of making false statements to the Inland Revenue Board.

Also scheduled for hearing within the month of August is the trial of Kinabatangan MP Bung Moktar Radin, for four days starting Aug 23.

Bung and his wife Zizie Izette were charged with receiving a bribe of RM2.2 million from an investment agent in exchange for approval for Felcra, of which Bung was the non-executive chairman, to invest RM150 million in Public Mutual unit trust products. The offence carries a sentence of up to 20 years’ imprisonment.

On Sept 6 comes the case involving Umno’s Baling MP Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim, who is appealing to strike out 13 corruption and money laundering charges.

The former Tabung Haji chairman was charged with receiving RM5.2 million in bribes for road projects, and 10 counts of money laundering involving some RM140 million.

The government is also seeking to forfeit RM16 million from accounts belonging to Azeez’s wife and children, in a case to be heard on Oct 8.

Azeez’s wife and children are not the only family members of politicians who have been dragged to court.

Najib’s wife Rosmah Mansor is set to dominate the limelight again next month, as the High Court decides on Sept 9 on her appeal to remove former Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram as lead prosecutor.

Rosmah is facing 20 years’ jail over a charge of soliciting RM187.5 million and two counts of receiving bribes totalling RM6.5 million from a businessman as a reward for helping his company secure a RM1.25 billion hybrid solar system project and the maintenance of diesel gen-sets for Sarawak rural schools from the education ministry.

Meanwhile, the trial of former Felda chairman Shahrir Samad, who like Ahmad Maslan is accused of failing to declare RM1 million he received from Najib, will be heard in April next year.

Another case involving Putrajaya MP Tengku Adnan Mansor has yet to be scheduled.

The prosecution is appealing against the Court of Appeal’s verdict on July 16 which overturned an earlier conviction by the High Court on a charge of receiving RM2 million from a businessman as kickbacks during his time as the federal territories minister.

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