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RM6m to Yayasan Akalbudi a donation, not a bribe for project, says Zahid's lawyer

KUALA LUMPUR (Sept 20): The High Court was told today that the RM6 million channelled to charitable foundation Yayasan Akalbudi (YAB), owned by Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, was a political and charitable donation, and not a bribe to secure a project.

Ahmad Zahid’s counsel Hamidi Mohd Noh said this in response to a question by High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah on why the RM6 million was channelled to YAB if the money was meant as a political donation.

The question was posed to Hamidi when he was submitting about two cheques, totalling RM6 million, which were sent to YAB as stated in the 14th and 15th corruption charges.

Hamidi replied that the 32nd prosecution witness and former Datasonic Group Bhd chief executive officer Datuk Abu Hanifah Noordin, who donated the RM6 million, was of the view that "political donation" and "charitable donation" are the same thing.

Justice Sequerah: If it is meant as a political donation, why would the money be channelled to YAB? What do you mean by “political also charity”?

Hamidi: I quote Abu Hanifah’s testimony in court — ‘It is a political donation, I would also say it is a charitable donation.’ To him (Abu Hanifah) it (the term) is interchangeable.

Previously, the 34th prosecution witness, former Datasonic Group deputy managing director Chew Ben Ben, had testified that in April 2017, he handed over the two cheques totalling RM6 million to Ahmad Zahid at his official residence (as the deputy prime minister at the time), and had also told the court that the money was meant as “political donations to Barisan Nasional” through Ahmad Zahid.

Today, Hamidi said the two cheques, which were both made payable to law firm Lewis & Co’s client account, were held in trust for YAB.

The lawyer also submitted to the court that Chew, whom he described as the single most important witness for charges 14 and 15, told the court that the two charges against Ahmad Zahid were "fitnah" (slander).

Hamidi was referring to Chew’s testimony, where he denied giving a bribe or reward to Ahmad Zahid for Datasonic Technologies Sdn Bhd to get a contract from the Home Affairs Ministry.

“Chew’s testimony had single-handedly buried the prosecution’s case for these two charges. It was ridiculous for the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission to file the charges, and for a witness to then come to court and say that such charges are “fitnah”.

“Based on Abu Hanifah’s witness statement, it is not unusual for Datasonic Group and Datasonic Technologies to be awarded government contracts, as it has been establishing its own reputation and standing in executing government contracts over the years,” he said.

At this juncture, Justice Sequerah then asked: "Wouldn’t he (the witness) be inclined to distance himself from corrupt practices (in obtaining the contract)?"

Hamidi responded that it was the defence's argument that there was no element of corruption. 

“The witness (Chew) came to court and said it as it is. It is a 'fitnah'. When they gave the money, they did not intend to give it as corrupt money,” the lawyer added. 

Ahmad Zahid, 68, is facing 47 charges — 12 of CBT, eight of corruption and 27 of money laundering — involving tens of millions of ringgit belonging to YAB.

Based on the 14th and 15th charge, Ahmad Zahid is alleged to have received bribes, amounting to RM6 million, from Chew as an inducement to appoint Datasonic Technologies to implement a five-year passport chip project, of 12.5 million chips for the Malaysian passport polycarbonate biodata page for the Immigration Department, through direct negotiations under the Ministry of Home Affairs (KDN).

The defence will continue its submission tomorrow.

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