PUTRAJAYA (April 5): The Federal Court has today dismissed former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi's application to consolidate his 12 criminal breach of trust (CBT) charges to just three charges in his trial for misappropriation of funds belonging to Yayasan Akalbudi.
The three-member bench led by Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Azahar Mohamed unanimously upheld the ruling made by the Court of Appeal on June 23, 2020, as well as the decision made by Kuala Lumpur High Court judge Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah on Nov 8, 2019 on this application.
With this decision, Zahid has exhausted all his legal avenues to proceed with the application.
The other judges on the bench were Datuk Seri Mohd Zawawi Salleh and Datuk Seri Hasnah Mohammed Hashim.
"We find that there is no merit in this appeal. We dismiss it, and we affirm the judgement of the Court of Appeal," Azahar said, in delivering the judgement of the panel judges.
Azahar said the bench ruled that the provision in Section 153(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), which lead defence lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik earlier contended that the prosecution did not comply with, is not a mandatory clause for the prosecution to undertake but is merely permissive in nature.
Section 153(2) of the CPC stipulates that it is sufficient to charge a person with CBT for the gross sum of the alleged offence, without specifying particular items or exact dates, and that the charge may be deemed to be a charge of one offence.
"There is no contravention of Section 153 of the CPC and there is nothing illegal about [what the prosecution did]," Azahar said.
Hisyam also argued that the prosecution, led by deputy public prosecutor Datuk Raja Rozela Raja Toran, had acted in bad faith, or mala fide, in prosecuting his client thus causing prejudice and unfairness. It was also argued that Zahid is deprived of a fair trial as the large amount of charges have created a negative perception against him.
On this, the panel judges ruled that the ground of complaint is not sustainable. Azahar said the onus is on the appellant to prove there was in fact mala fide, and should further show as to how and in what manner that the accused was prejudiced as a result of the 12 charges.
"On the complaint that the charges referred against him would create adverse perception, we find no merit because the court will decide on all these charges based on admissible evidence adduced in court. Adverse perception is not a factor to be taken into consideration by court. Adverse publicity will not affect the appellant's right to a fair trial," Azahar said.
When met outside the court, Hisyam told the media that the apex court's decision today will not influence his client's case, should Zahid be called to enter his defence.
"We thank the court for its decision and guidance. In any event, it won't affect our strategy at all. We are preparing our defence as per the existing charges at the High Court," he said.
Besides the 12 CBT charges, Zahid is also facing 35 other charges — eight for bribery and 27 for money laundering — involving millions of ringgit belonging to his charitable trust Yayasan Akalbudi, all being heard in the same trial before Justice Sequerah.
On March 19, the prosecution has actually concluded its case on this trial, which began on Nov 18, 2019, after calling up 99 witnesses testifying against Zahid. The judge has ordered the parties to file their primary submissions by June 11, while oral submissions have been fixed to be heard on June 28 to 30 and July 1 to 2.
Once the submissions are complete, the judge said he will announce the date of his decision on whether Zahid will need to enter his defence against the CBT, corruption and money laundering charges.
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