Monday, July 4, 2022

RM6 million was a political contribution, not kickbacks for passport chip contract, Zahid says

He says he had no authority to appoint Datasonic Technologies Sdn Bhd as the supplier as such decisions lay with the finance ministry.

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Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told the Kuala Lumpur High Court today that the two cheques amounting to RM6 million received from Syarikat Sarana Kencana Sdn Bhd were political contributions during his time as the deputy prime minister, not bribes.

Zahid, 69, said allegations that the cheques received through former Datasonic Group Bhd deputy managing director Chew Ben Ben were inducements to appoint Datasonic Technologies Sdn Bhd (DTSB) as a supplier of passport chips for five years were untrue and slanderous.

“I wish to stress that the decision to appoint DTSB was not mine. I had no authority to make the final decision as it was under the jurisdiction of the finance ministry.

“The process carried out by the finance ministry, home ministry and immigration department on awarding the polycarbonate contract to DTSB was in order and according to the stipulated procedure.

“All procedures were conducted appropriately by my officers at the home ministry and this was verified by the finance ministry before the contract was awarded to DTSB,” he said when questioned by his lawyer, Ahmad Zaidi Zainal, during his defence against 47 charges involving tens of millions of ringgit in funds belonging to Yayasan Akalbudi.

Twelve of the charges are of criminal breach of trust, eight are of corruption, and 27 are of money laundering.

Zahid said during his time as home minister, former DTSB director Mohamed Hashim Mohd Ali had submitted a letter applying to supply passport chips for five years or 12.5 million chips which would be embedded in the Malaysian passport polycarbonate biodata page via direct negotiation.

“When it involves direct negotiation, it involves directives from the treasury as well as the internal procurement of the home ministry. Furthermore, I stated that the finance ministry determines the award of direct negotiations to any company that has made an application not at the procurement level of the home ministry,” he said.

To Zaidi’s question on how he knew Hashim, Zahid said he met Hashim, who was then the army chief, when he held the position of political secretary to the defence minister.

“He (Hashim) later became the director of several listed companies, including DTSB. I have known him for more than 20 years since I was in the defence ministry, not because of his involvement in business but as an officer of the armed forces,” he said.

He said Sarana Kencana was owned by Hashim and Abu Hanifah Noordin, the former managing director of Datasonic Group Bhd.

The Bagan Datuk MP also said that Abu Hanifah, who is the 32nd prosecution witness, had stated in court that the cheques were given to him as a political fund which was part of a charity.

“Chew Ben Ben (the 34th prosecution witness) also testified during re-examination by the prosecution that based on his understanding, political money is also included as charity.

“Abu Hanifah and Chew also stated that the issuance of these two cheques had nothing to do with the appointment of DTSB to execute the polycarbonate contract. In fact, the cheques that were credited into the customer account of Messrs Lewis & Co were a political contribution to me,” he said.

According to the 14th and 15th charges, Zahid is alleged to have received bribes amounting to RM6 million from Chew as a reward for appointing DTSB to implement a passport chip project for a period of five years or for a total of 12.5 million chips to be included in the polycarbonate biodata page of Malaysia’s international passport by the immigration department through direct negotiations under the home ministry.

The trial is being conducted before judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah.

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