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Zahid was just following Najib’s orders, court told in VLN graft trial

Another prosecution witness meanwhile says Zahid received a salary and allowance amounting to RM44,383.15 per month while serving as deputy prime minister.

3 minute read
Former deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi arrives at the Shah Alam High Court today. Photo: Bernama
Former deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi arrives at the Shah Alam High Court today. Photo: Bernama

The High Court today was told that Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was just following the orders of former prime minister Najib Razak to extend the contract of Ultra Kirana Sdn Bhd (UKSB) as the sole operator of the foreign visa system (VLN) to Malaysia in China.

Former home ministry deputy secretary-general (policy and control) Suriani Ahmad said this was based on the minutes jotted down by Najib, dated May 23, 2013, sent to Zahid, stating “projek ini perlu diteruskan” (the project needs to be continued).

When asked by Zahid’s lawyer Hamidi Mohd Noh on whose order this was made, Suriani replied: “Order from the prime minister.”

When referred to another set of minutes dated Jan 20, 2014, Suriani said: “The minutes state ‘YB Datuk Sri Zahid, please help in this matter. This contract needs to be continued.'”

Hamidi: Those were the words from the prime minister to the deputy prime minister?

Suriani: Correct.

Suriani also agreed with Hamidi that she would carry out the instructions if asked by her superior, Alwi Ibrahim, who was the home ministry secretary-general at the time.

In the previous proceedings, the second prosecution witness, former principal assistant secretary at the Immigration Affairs Division of the home ministry, Azman Azra Abdul Rahman @ Md Salleh, told the court that UKSB had sent several letters to Najib requesting his consideration to retain the company as the sole operator of visa management to Malaysia in China.

Meanwhile, Suriani, when questioned by deputy public prosecutor Gan Peng Kun during cross-examination about the minutes received by the home ministry from Zahid regarding the extension of the VLN contract, explained that it was done in a hurry.

“The ministry’s stance was that if it agreed to grant the extension, it would be made in a hurry because the contract was still running and there was still plenty of time before it expired. That’s why I think there should be time and space to make an assessment first.

“The contract had yet to expire. There were still three years (until it expired). Three more years to make an assessment (for contract extension). That was the position of the ministry,” he said.

Meanwhile, the fifth prosecution witness, the former assistant secretary at the Prime Minister’s Department’s Cabinet, Constitution and Inter-Government Relation Division, Sheeba Kunhmon, 48, told the court that Zahid received a salary and allowance amounting to RM44,383.15 per month from 2015 to 2018 while serving as deputy prime minister.

“While holding the post from 2015 to 2018, Zahid received RM18,168.15 a month and an allowance of RM26,215.

“As a federal minister (minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, defence minister and home minister) between 2008 and 2015, he received RM14,907.20 in salary, with RM24,320 as an allowance,” she said when reading her witness statement during examination-in-chief by deputy public prosecutor Zander Lim Wai Keong.

When asked by Lim about the source of salary received by Zahid, Sheeba replied: “From the Malaysian government.”

Zahid, 68, is charged with 33 counts of receiving bribes amounting to S$13.56 million from UKSB, as an inducement for himself in his capacity as a civil servant, as then home minister, to extend the contract of the company as the operator of the one-stop centre service in China, and the VLN system, as well as to maintain the contract to supply the VLN integrated system paraphernalia to the same company by the home ministry.

On seven other charges, Zahid was charged, in his capacity as home minister then, with accepting S$1,150,000, RM3,000,000, €15,000, and US$15,000 without consideration from the same company, which he knew had a connection with his function.

The trial before judge Mohd Yazid Mustafa continues on Dec 20.