Friday, October 22, 2021

RM6 million for charity foundation was a donation, not a bribe, Zahid’s lawyer tells court

He says the man who gave the money was of the view that 'political donations' and 'charitable donations' were the same thing.

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The High Court was told today that the RM6 million channelled to charity foundation Yayasan Akalbudi, owned by Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, was a political and charitable donation and not a bribe to secure a project.

Zahid’s counsel, Hamidi Mohd Noh, said this in response to a question by High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah on why the RM6 million was channelled to Yayasan Akalbudi if the money was meant as a political donation.

The question was posed to Hamidi when he was submitting about two cheques totalling RM6 million which were sent to Yayasan Akalbudi as stated in the 14th and 15th corruption charges.

Hamidi replied that the 32nd prosecution witness and former Datasonic Group Bhd CEO, Abu Hanifah Noordin, who donated the RM6 million, was of the view that “political donations” and “charitable donation” were the same thing.

Sequerah: If it was meant as a political donation, why would the money be channelled to Yayasan Akalbudi? What do you mean by “political also charity”?

Hamidi: I quote Abu Hanifah’s testimony in court – “It is a political donation, I would also say it is a charitable donation.” To him (Abu Hanifah), it (the term) is interchangeable.

Previously, the 34th prosecution witness, former Datasonic Group Bhd deputy managing director Chew Ben Ben, had testified that in April 2017, he handed over the two cheques totalling RM6 million to Zahid at his official residence (as the deputy prime minister at the time), and had also told the court that the money was meant as “political donations to Barisan Nasional” through Zahid.

Today, Hamidi said that the two cheques, both made payable to law firm Lewis & Co’s client account, were held in trust for Yayasan Akalbudi.

The lawyer also submitted to the court that Chew, whom he described as the single most important witness for charges 14 and 15, had told the court that the two charges against Zahid were “fitnah” (slander).

Hamidi was referring to Chew’s testimony, where he denied giving a bribe or reward to Zahid for Datasonic Technologies Sdn Bhd to receive a contract from the home ministry.

“Chew’s testimony had single-handedly buried the prosecution’s case for these two charges. It was ridiculous for the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission to file the charges, and for a witness to then come to court and say that such charges are ‘fitnah’.

“Based on Abu Hanifah’s witness statement, it was not unusual for Datasonic Group and Datasonic Technologies to be awarded government contracts as it had been establishing its reputation and standing in executing government contracts over the years,” he said.

Sequerah then asked: “Wouldn’t he (the witness) be inclined to distance himself from corrupt practices (in obtaining the contract)?”

Hamidi responded that it was the defence argument that there was no element of corruption.

“The witness (Chew) came to court and said it as it is. It is a ‘fitnah’. When they gave the money, they did not intend to give it as corrupt money,” the lawyer added.

Zahid, 68, is facing 47 charges – 12 of criminal breach of trust, eight of corruption and 27 of money laundering – involving tens of millions of ringgit belonging to YAB.

Based on the 14th and 15th charge, Zahid is alleged to have received bribes amounting to RM6 million from Chew as an inducement to appoint Datasonic Technologies Sdn Bhd to implement a five-year passport chip project, of 12.5 million chips for the Malaysian passport polycarbonate biodata page for the immigration department, through direct negotiations under the home ministry.

The defence will continue its submission tomorrow.

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