Foreign Visa System trial: Zahid’s lawyer rebuts prosecution’s opening statement, decries ‘selective prosecution’

KUALA LUMPUR : Lawyers representing Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi today described their client a victim of ‘selective prosecution’ and rejected outright the prosecution’s opening statement after Zahid’s Foreign Visa System (VLN) corruption trial kicked off at the High Court earlier today (May 24).

In rebutting the prosecution’s opening statement, Zahid’s defence team contended that the criminal charges leveled against the former deputy prime minister was aimed at accomplishing ‘character assassination’.

Earlier today, Deputy Public Prosecutor Raja Rozela Raja Toran contended that Zahid took advantage of his position to reap monetary benefits for himself by receiving bribes in the form of various foreign currencies from a local company, Ultra Kirana Sdn Bhd.

According to the charges, Zahid stands accused of accepting the bribes as payment and inducement to maintain or extend UKSB’s appointment contract with the government for services rendered to the Home Ministry.

Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi arrives at the Shah Alam High Court May 24, 2021. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi arrives at the Shah Alam High Court May 24, 2021. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

“The defence team vehemently rejected the statement made in the prosecution’s opening statement.

“Zahid during his tenure as home minister never took advantage of his position and never reaped monetary benefits during that period,” they said.

Zahid was home minister under the former Barisan Nasional coalition government from May 2013 until May 2018, with his ministry also overseeing the Immigration Department.

They also said the appointment of UKSB as a contractor to the Malaysian government for services rendered was not made during Zahid’s tenure as home minister.

“The defence also states that there was no motivation required for UKSB to offer bribes to Zahid at that time,” they added.

The defence team also said they were prepared to cross-examine and challenge the testimonies of the 20 prosecution witnesses called to testify in due course of the trial.

First witness

Companies Commission of Malaysia (CCM) assistant registrar Muhamad Akmaluddin Abdullah took the stand as the first prosecution witness.

In his witness statement, Muhamad Akmaluddin detailed UKSB’s business nature as one that involves in providing visa facilities related services.

According to CCM documents, UKSB also had two addresses in Kuala Lumpur and Cyberjaya, with the former its registered address and the latter its business address.

He also affirmed that he was asked to provide UKSB’s corporate information when the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) approached him in September 2018.

This will be the Umno president’s second trial following the ongoing hearing at the Kuala Lumpur High Court in which he is facing 47 criminal breach of trust, corruption and money laundering charges involving tens of millions of ringgit belonging to Yayasan Akalbudi.

In this VLN case, Ahmad Zahid pleaded not guilty to 33 charges of receiving bribes amounting to S$13.56 million (RM42 million) from Ultra Kirana Sdn Bhd as an inducement for himself in his capacity as a civil servant then as home minister to extend the contract of company as the operator of One Stop Centre (OSC) 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 Home Ministry.

He allegedly committed the offences at Seri Satria, Precinct 16, Putrajaya and in Country Heights, Kajang, between October 2014 and March 2018.

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

For another seven charges, Ahmad Zahid was charged as home minister for accepting S$1,150,000, RM3,000,000, €15,000 (RM75,663) and US$15,000 (RM62,115) in cash from the same company which he knew had connection with his function as then home minister.

He was charged with committing the offences at a house in Country Heights, between June 2015 and October 2017, under Section 165 of the Penal Code which carries a maximum jail term of two years or fine or both if found guilty.

The hearing before High Court judge Datuk Mohd Yazid Mustafa resumes tomorrow.

By : KENNETH TEE – MALAY MAIL

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