SHAH ALAM (May 25): Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was implicated in Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s (pictured) trial in connection with the Foreign Visa System (VLN) today after a witness claimed that the former had facilitated the hiring of a contractor as the single operator in the implementation and deployment of Malaysia's visa application management system.
The prosecution's second witness Azman Azra Abdul Rahman, who was the chief assistant secretary in the Immigration Affairs Division of the Ministry of Home Affairs from August 2008 until October 2015, testified today that there were three occasions where Najib had sent minutes to Zahid to recommend Ultra Kirana Sdn Bhd (UKSB) as the sole operator for the visa application management system in China.
"On May 23, 2013, a letter from UKSB was sent to former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak. In the letter, UKSB has sought continued consideration and support from the Government of Malaysia. This UKSB letter was signed by Fadzil Ahmad, managing director of UKSB.
"As a result of the letter, the former prime minister had written minutes on the letter [which was] sent to Datuk Seri Zahid on May 23, 2013 (same day) that the project should continue," Azman said, relating the first incident.
Following a proposal by the company, UKSB was first hired by the government in 2010 to implement online and conventional visa application services for the Malaysian representative office in China on a proof-of-concept basis for a period of six to 12 months.
After showing positive results, UKSB was appointed as a vendor to implement and provide visa facilities in China on behalf of the Malaysian Immigration Department for a period of six years from 2012 to 2018.
It is worth noting that the agreement was entered during Zahid's predecessor Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein's tenure as home minister.
But when Zahid took over, the ministry and the Malaysian Immigration Department came up with a project to improve the one-stop centre system to become a complete visa application system to be used by all Immigration Attaché offices in respective countries. The system was later known as VLN.
It is during this time that Azman said UKSB had approached Najib several times by sending in letters to seek "continued support and consideration" for the company.
For the second time, UKSB sent a letter to Najib in January 2014, requesting that the government maintain the company as the sole visa management operator in China, in line with the government policy of one visa application operator for one country.
According to Azman, the minutes that Najib wrote on the letter which was then sent to Zahid read, "YB Datuk Sri Zahid, Please Help In This Matter. This contract needs to be continued."
Then in 2015, UKSB was to implement E-Visa, which is a government effort to conduct VLN matters online. As such, UKSB, again, sent a letter to Najib to request the government to expedite the implementation of E-Visa globally as an extended system and facility for the contracts that were mentioned in the VLN agreement.
The letter was then forwarded to Zahid, with Najib's own minutes reading, "This company has been awarded an E-Visa contract. Please proceed with the implementation. E-Visa for China can be launched on 1 Jan 2016."
UKSB is a central entity in this trial as Zahid is charged with 33 counts of receiving bribes amounting to S$13.56 million (RM42.18 million) from the company 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.
In this trial, 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.
He has previously pleaded not guilty to all the charges. The trial before High Court judge Datuk Mohd Yazid Mustafa was adjourned today and will resume on Thursday.
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