Shafee ‘suppressed’ RM9.5m legal fees from taxman: Prosecution

The lawyer didn’t declare the sum to the IRB as required by law, contends the DPP.

Lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah hid from the taxman legal fees of RM9.5 million that he received from then-prime minister Najib Abdul Razak, the prosecution contended today.

Lead deputy public prosecutor Afzainizam Abdul Aziz said this in the prosecution’s opening statement on the first day of Shafee’s RM9.5 million money-laundering trial.

“The accused is an advocate and solicitor of these courts.

“The prosecution will prove that the accused, in his capacity as an advocate and solicitor, received a sum of RM9.5 million as his fee but intentionally suppressed that fact from Revenue (Inland Revenue Board or IRB),” the DPP contended before the High Court in Kuala Lumpur.

On Sept 13, 2018, at the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court, Shafee claimed trial to four charges linked to the RM9.5 million allegedly received from Najib via two cheques.

He was charged with two counts of money laundering over the RM9.5 million, which he was accused of receiving in two tranches: the first RM4.3 million on Sept 13, 2013, and the second payment of RM5.2 million on Feb 17, 2014.

Shafee was also charged with two counts of giving false statements to the IRB in relation to the payments, on March 3 and June 29, 2015.

The 69-year-old lawyer was alleged to have deposited the two cheques into his personal account with a CIMB bank branch in Bukit Tunku, Kuala Lumpur.

Shafee was charged under Section 4 (1) (b) of the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act (AMLA) 2001 (for the two money-laundering charges).

He was also charged under Section 113(1)(a) of the Income Tax Act 1967 (for the two false statement charges involving IRB).

‘Inconsistent versions’

The case was later transferred to the High Court in Kuala Lumpur, with today being the first day of the trial before judge Muhammad Jamil Hussin.

Najib is also currently facing numerous separate criminal trials, among them being the RM2.28 billion 1MDB corruption case.

During proceedings, Afzainizam submitted that Shafee did not declare the RM9.5 million sum to IRB as required by law.

The DPP contended that the prosecution will seek to prove in court that the circumstances in which the monies were received and concealed from IRB constitute evidence from which the court could infer that the accused was involved in an unlawful activity and thereby had committed money laundering.

“The prosecution will prove that the accused gave inconsistent versions as to the reasons for the payments in question.

“In his statement to the MACC officer recorded pursuant to Section 30(3)(b) of the MACC Act 2009 on July 28, 2017, the accused said the money in question was his fee.

“But the court may wish to take into consideration that the money was deposited into the accused’s personal account and not the account of the firm Messrs Shafee & Co under which style he practised.”

A further statement was recorded from the accused under the same provision on Sept 11, 2018. In that statement, Shafee said that on Sept 5, 2013, he and one Najib Tun Razak agreed that the money in question was to be a loan to the accused pending rationalisation of the fee already payable to him.

“In the course of this statement being recorded, the accused handed to the recording officer a letter, purported to have been by him, on Sept 12, 2013, and purporting to carry Najib’s initials.

“The prosecution does not accept this letter as genuine. It will be our case that the letter was brought into existence at a time well after July 28, 2017,” Afzainizam said, adding that the prosecution will rely on circumstantial evidence to establish their case.

“Further, the accused in a written press statement dated Sept 8, 2018, and signed by him, said that the payment of RM9.5 million was fees due to him pending the rationalisation of the paperwork as agreed to by Najib.

“The prosecution will contend that the press statement, when read as a whole, tells against the monies being a loan,” Afzainizam said.

During the same proceedings, Shafee’s counsel Harvinderjit Singh claimed that the prosecution’s opening statement is prejudicial at this stage as the four charges were allegedly defective.

“We reserve the position on the defect of the charges, not just the particulars but also the phraseology in the charges,” Harvinderjit said.

Afzainizam then told the court that it is better to allow the prosecution to adduce all evidence to support their case first, and then only deal with the issue raised by Harvinderjit toward the end of the prosecution’s case.

The prosecution then called the first two witnesses, namely AmBank Jalan Raja Chulan branch manager R Uma Devi and CIMB Bukit Tunku branch manager Rosnita Ahmad.

First prosecution witness Uma Devi, 41, confirmed bank documents showing that cheques were made out from Najib’s 906 account with AmBank, while second prosecution witness Rosnita, 41, also confirmed bank documents showing that the cheques were then banked into Shafee’s account with CIMB.

The trial before Jamil will resume on Friday next week.

By : HIDIR REDUAN ABDUL RASHID – MALAYSIAKINI

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