SHAH ALAM (May 27): Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s (pictured) trial in connection with the Foreign Visa System (VLN) ended early today, as one of the lawyers representing the defence, Aiman Abdul Rahman, was indicated as a close contact of a symptomatic Covid-19 patient.

Lawyer Hamidi Mohd Noh, representing Ahmad Zahid, told the court that the change in status in Aiman’s MySejahtera app happened at noon today, from “low risk without symptoms” to “casual contact with symptoms”.

“I am informing the court of this change in status in order to not put my colleagues at risk,” he told High Court Justice Datuk Mohd Yazid Mustafa, requesting a postponement of the proceedings.

The judge agreed to postpone the trial to next Tuesday (June 1).

During today’s proceedings, the prosecution called in its third witness, former deputy secretary of the immigration affairs division Siti Jalilah Abd Manap, who had read her witness statement.

She recounted the process involved during the renewal of the agreement for Ultra Kirana Sdn Bhd (UKSB) as the provider of VLN and e-Visa services.

The extension, which was requested by UKSB, was for a period of six years from Oct 31, 2019 till end-2025, with Siti Jalilah stating that she thought the renewal was made very early, given that the request was put in in October 2016 — three years before the then effective contract would have expired.

“Based on clause 2.2.1 of the VLN System Agreement which was signed previously, UKSB can request for an extension [of the contract] no less than six months before the end of the contract period,” said the witness.

According to her, Ahmad Zahid had minuted in UKSB’s request letter that the latter had no qualms with the six-year extension for UKSB, and had ordered for a supplementary agreement to be issued as soon as possible to effect the extension.

She added that the six-year extension was in line with the National Immigration Control System (SKIN).

In March 2017, she said Ahmad Zahid had agreed to the contract extension, although he said that the ceiling rate for VLN fees and contract terms for the extension need to be renegotiated to take into account the profit sharing with the government with regard to the fees.

Subsequently, in June 2017, Ahmad Zahid had signed off on a minute indicating that a supplemental agreement was to be issued to include additional scope of works to be undertaken by UKSB as well as for the six-year extension of the contract.

She confirmed that Ahmad Zahid had minuted on the document that the contract should be “extended for three years without the approval of the Public Private Partnership Unit (UKAS)”.

She said Ahmad Zahid’s decision was “inconsistent with the instructions and procedures at the time” and therefore she had decided to notify the chief director of UKAS of the decision to get further explanation from UKAS.

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.

It is alleged that the inducement was 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 previously pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

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