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Zahid's four years as home minister used to amass wealth, says prosecution in foreign visa system graft trial

SHAH ALAM (May 24): Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had taken advantage of his four-year tenure as the country's home minister to amass wealth for himself, according to the prosecution to his second corruption trial over his alleged abuse of the foreign visa system (VLN). 

The trial involving 40 charges of bribery against Zahid, who was also the then deputy prime minister, commenced here earlier today and is scheduled to go on for at least 16 days until the end of June. 

"The case before Yang Arif involved the prosecution of a corruption offence against a former member of the administration in the Federal Government. The accused in this case, Ahmad Zahid bin Hamidi, was the Home Minister at the time of the incident.

"During his four years as a home minister, the accused (Zahid) took advantage of his position to amass wealth," Deputy Head II of the Prosecution Division at the Attorney-General's Chambers Datuk Raja Rozela Raja Toran said in her opening statement at the trial today. 

She asserted that Zahid had received bribes involving cash of various currencies, namely S$14.71 million, RM3.125 million, US$15,000 and €5,000, from one Ultra Kirana Sdn Bhd (UKSB), a contractor hired by the government to provide supply and services for the Ministry of Home Affairs. 

Raja Rozela said the prosecution is set to prove that Zahid was involved and had knowledge of the appointment of UKSB as the contractor, and that there is indeed a connection between the appointment of UKSB and the pile of cash that Zahid received. 

"The connection between the two facts is important to prove that the accused (Zahid) had received the bribes as compensation and as an inducement to maintain and/or extend the UKSB appointment contract," she said, adding that the prosecution will call up to 20 witnesses to testify against Zahid throughout its case. 

Since the start of the hearing session this morning, the prosecution managed to call its first witness — assistant registrar at the Companies Commission of Malaysia (SSM) Muhamad Akmaludin Abdullah, who confirmed that UKSB had legally registered its company into the commission. 

The company was registered to engage in conducting visa facility related services business. The court was also told that directors of the company included Tan Chuin Boon and Fadzil Ahmad. 

The cross-examination of Akmaludin, led by defence counsel Hamidi Mohd Noh, was adjourned today and will resume tomorrow. 

In this trial, Zahid pleaded not guilty to 33 counts of receiving bribes amounting to S$13.56 million (RM42.18 million) from UKSB as an inducement for himself in his capacity as the home minister to extend the contract of the company as the operator of a one-stop centre in China and the VLN system as well as to maintain the agreement to supply VLN integrated system paraphernalia to the same company by the ministry.

The charges were framed under Section 16(a)(B) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009.

The offence can be punished under Section 24(1) of the same Act, which provides a maximum of 20 years in jail and a fine of not less than five times the value of the gratification, or RM10,000, whichever is higher upon conviction.

The Bagan Datuk MP also pleaded not guilty to 33 alternative charges under Section 165 of the Penal Code as the home minister for receiving bribes amounting to S$13.56 million in relation to the VLN system between 2014 and 2017.

Zahid also faces seven charges involving accepting S$1.15 million, RM3 million, €15,000 and US$15,000 in cash from the same company, which he knew had connection with his functions as the then minister.

The charges were framed under Section 165 of the Penal Code, which carries a maximum jail term of two years or fine or both if found guilty.

Raja Rozela also led the prosecution in Zahid's first trial, involving 47 charges of criminal breach of trust, corruption and money laundering. The prosecution had concluded its case at the High Court in Kuala Lumpur on March 19, after 99 witnesses had testified.

The judge for that trial has fixed June 28 to 30 and July 1 and 2 for oral submissions, after which he will decide whether Zahid must enter his defence.

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