Thursday, October 21, 2021

How do football players qualify as poor, prosecution asks in Zahid’s graft trial

Deputy public prosecutor Raja Rozela Raja Toran questions the Umno president's use of funds from Yayasan Akalbudi to pay the salaries of the PDRM football team.

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The prosecution in Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s trial today submitted that he should never have used Yayasan Akalbudi funds to pay the wages of the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM) football team (then PDRM FA, now PDRM FC) as the club players should not have come under the poverty category who need help.

Deputy public prosecutor Raja Rozela Raja Toran said the football club players were all professionals and the only issue they faced was unpaid wages, a problem which the club itself could have resolved.

“It is a football club, not an NGO that runs a soup kitchen or a food bank.

“These players are professional players. Players are given wages, shortfall of money doesn’t necessarily make one poor, it does not make one poor or destitute. It does not fall into the category of poverty as stated or as envisaged in the memorandum or objectives of (the) establishment of Yayasan Akalbudi,” she said.

Raja Rozela said this in her submission at the end of the prosecution’s case against the former deputy prime minister, who is facing 47 charges of criminal breach of trust (CBT), corruption and money laundering involving Yayasan Akalbudi funds.

The objective of setting up Yayasan Akalbudi was to accept and manage funds to eradicate poverty under its poverty eradication programme, she said.

The payment to the PDRM Football Association players was confirmed by the 19th prosecution witness, Zul Hisham Zainal, who is also Zahid’s son-in-law, during his testimony. He said the donation was to pay the players’ wages and that he had sought help for funds from his father-in-law.

During the defence’s submission, Zahid’s lawyer Hamidi Mohd Noh had submitted that the RM1.3 million payment to the football club was to eradicate poverty among its players.

Raja Rozela further submitted that even civil servants should qualify for poverty aid from Yayasan Akalbudi because they do not get paid as much, suggesting that the football club does not fit the description of being in poverty.

“Let’s forget about the footballers, let’s look at civil servants. They don’t get much in terms of salary. By the first week of payday, half of the room would probably qualify as poor. Easily qualify to receive ‘sumbangan’ (contributions) from Yayasan Akalbudi, courtesy of the accused.

“In this instance, the accused acted dishonestly when he misappropriated the RM1.3 million Yayasan Akalbudi cheque,” she said.

The prosecution said the accused had treated the money as if it were his own in which 50 cheques were issued between 2014 and 2016 from Yayasan Akalbudi’s account involving a sum of RM13.1 million.

Raja Rozela said Zahid used more than RM13.1 million for credit card payments, motor insurance policies and road tax, the payment to the football club, to pay consultancy firm TS Consultancy & Resources and loans to Armada Holdings Sdn Bhd.

Raja Rozela also submitted that Zahid used RM360,000 of the foundation’s funds to pay consultancy firm TS Consultancy & Resources, which was set up to provide training and motivation courses but in reality was a political arm of Barisan Nasional established to assist the party in the registration of voters in certain areas.

Raja Rozela added that Zahid had given a RM10 million loan to Armada Holdings Sdn Bhd with an agreement that it should be repaid to him within a month with interest.

“The accused also used Yayasan Akalbudi funds to pay over RM1.3 million for his credit card bills used for shopping sprees at luxury stores like Giorgio Armani, Louis Vuitton or Hermes and used RM107,508.55 to pay road tax and insurance for 20 vehicles belonging to him (Zahid) and three others, including his wife (Hamidah Khamis), BZ Motors and Juhari Janan, between January and September 2015,” she said.

Ahmad Zahid, 68, is facing 47 charges – 12 of CBT, eight of corruption, and 27 of money laundering – involving tens of millions of ringgit belonging to Yayasan Akalbudi.

The hearing before judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah continues tomorrow.

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