Prosecution: Were Zahid, wife thinking of Malaysia’s poor people while shopping at Armani, LV, Hermes stores?

KUALA LUMPUR : The prosecution today questioned if Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and his wife were thinking of the poor in Malaysia when they went shopping at brands associated with luxury goods.

The prosecution said this when highlighting bankers’ evidence of more than RM1.3 million of charitable foundation Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds having been used to pay the credit card bills of Ahmad Zahid and his wife.

The prosecution previously submitted evidence that 43 cheques in Yayasan Akalbudi’s name had been issued to make payments between January 2014 to January 2016 for the credit card bills.

Lead prosecutor Datuk Raja Rozela Raja Toran acknowledged that the couple’s spending habits would not be part of the legal issue involved in proving the criminal breach of trust charges against Ahmad Zahid, but remarked on the shopping shown.

“When we look at the credit card statements themselves, My Lord, we will be able to see the spending habits of the accused and his spouse.

“Although I admit that this is not an issue, their spending habits is not an issue in our case, My Lord, but one cannot help but wonder whether they had in mind the poor people in Malaysia when they went shopping in Giorgio Armani, Louis Vuitton or Hermes,” she told the court.

Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is pictured at Kuala Lumpur High Court October 4, 2021. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is pictured at Kuala Lumpur High Court October 4, 2021. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

Yayasan Akalbudi is a foundation aimed at eradicating poverty and enhancing the welfare of the poor. It is registered with the Companies Commission of Malaysia, with Ahmad Zahid being a trustee as well as subsequently from June 2013 onwards the sole authorised person who could sign on the foundation’s cheques.

Ahmad Zahid is accused in this trial of having committed criminal breach of trust involving more than RM31 million of Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds, including over RM13 million paid out using 50 cheques — including the 43 cheques for credit card bills.

Previously, AmBank senior vice-president Yeoh Eng Leong as the 10th prosecution witness had in court confirmed credit card statements from December 2013 to January 2016 for Ahmad Zahid’s two principal credit cards and two supplementary credit cards for Ahmad Zahid’s wife, with total spending of RM1,479,085.44 or close to RM1.48 million during that period.

The AmBank credit card statements had shown that the credit card was used both locally and globally, including Indonesia, Vietnam, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia, US, UK, Italy, Ukraine and Dubai in the UAE.

The AmBank credit card statements had recorded spending in high-end fashion brands, such as Brioni (totalling RM50,278.60 via two transactions in Kuala Lumpur and New York), Hermes (totalling RM49,058.95 via three transactions in Milan and Rome in Italy), Burberry (totalling RM44,145.67 via two transactions in Hong Kong and New York), Louis Vuitton (totalling RM43,127.43 in five transactions in KL’s Starhill Gallery, Australia and Jakarta), Giorgio Armani (totalling RM19,866.72 via two transactions in Australia and Rome), and Tod’s (totalling RM11,521,95 in Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta), Ermenegildo Zegna in London (RM55,402.40) and Tory Burch (RM19,972.97).

Previously, Maybank’s vice-president Anoop Singh Gulzara Singh as the ninth prosecution witness had also verified credit card statements in the 2014 to 2015 period for three credit cards issued to Ahmad Zahid, which showed credit card use including RM5,900 at Louis Vuitton’s KLCC outlet in June 2014, RM7,604.90 in Ukraine in August 2014, as well as RM30,635.80 and RM1,810.66 in Seoul, Korea in 2015.

Raja Rozela highlighted that AmBank’s Yeoh previously confirmed that the bank received payments totalling RM534,412.52 from January to December 2014, RM708,134.47 from January to December 2015, and RM54,168.99 for January 2016, based on the credit card statements.

Raja Rozela said Maybank’s Anoop Singh previously also confirmed that the bank received six payments totalling RM30,771.19 between February and October 2014, and a RM3,914.84 payment in March 2015, and a payment of RM30,635.80.

When the payments received via cheques from Yayasan Akalbudi for the credit card bills at the two banks are totalled up, it would come up to a combined total of RM1,362,037.81 or slightly more than RM1.3 million.

Ahmad Zahid’s lawyers previously tried to put the blame on his former executive secretary Major Mazlina Mazlan @ Ramly by claiming that she had stamped Ahmad Zahid’s signature on to the Yayasan Akalbudi cheques without his approval or knowledge.

Ahmad Zahid’s lawyers had denied trying to make Mazlina a “scapegoat”, but continued to insist that it was her who had allegedly made the “mistake” of using Yayasan Akalbudi cheques instead of Ahmad Zahid’s personal cheque book for the credit card payments.

Today, Raja Rozela presented to the High Court the prosecution’s arguments on why Ahmad Zahid was said to have committed criminal breach of trust in relation to using RM13,129,547.36 (over RM13 million) of Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds for purposes that are unrelated to or had gone against the charitable foundation’s objectives of poverty eradication and enhancing the poor’s welfare.

This RM13 million sum alone is regarding 11 out of the 12 criminal breach of trust charges that Ahmad Zahid is facing in this trial.

Raja Rozela listed the alleged dishonest misappropriation by Ahmad Zahid of Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds totalling RM13 million which he were entrusted with, namely the RM1.3 million payment via 43 cheques for personal credit card bills, a RM107,509.55 payment using three cheques for vehicle insurance and road tax for privately-owned vehicles, a RM1.3 million cheque to the police’s football association, a RM10 million loan given out via a cheque to company Armada Holdings Sdn Bhd and a RM360,000 payment via two cheques to political consultancy firm TS Consultancy & Resources which helped register voters.

Raja Rozela said evidence from prosecution witnesses and documents produced in court proved that a total of around RM13.1 million was misappropriated from Yayasan Akalbudi through 50 cheques, and argued there was dishonest intent by Ahmad Zahid, which would be required to prove the criminal breach of trust charges.

“All evidence points to the obvious conclusion that the monies which were meant for eradication of poverty and welfare of the poor, had been set aside or assigned to the wrong person or wrong use of property to the exclusion of Akalbudi.

“That is plain and obvious, using trust funds to pay credit cards, buying insurance policies and giving monies to all these three entities — in our submission, this is gross misappropriation on the part of the accused.

Raja Rozela also argued that Ahmad Zahid had “acted dishonestly when he misused” Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds for these five purposes.

In this trial, Ahmad Zahid ― who is a former deputy prime minister and currently the Umno president ― is facing 47 charges, namely 12 counts of criminal breach of trust in relation to charitable foundation Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds, 27 counts of money laundering, and eight counts of bribery charges.

The trial before High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah resumes tomorrow.

During the hearing today, the judge had asked both the prosecution and Ahmad Zahid’s lawyers if they could find additional common dates to hear the trial, as he wanted to hear the case before Ahmad Zahid leaves for medical treatment abroad.

“My concern is that I want to finish it The accused is going off on October 26, unless of course we can include more dates. Because what I don’t want to do is to have this spillover until after he comes back, because don’t forget the quarantine period as well, so it will be too long a period. So maybe we can pack in more dates before the accused leaves for Germany,” the judge requested.

On Monday, the High Court in Shah Alam and the High Court in Kuala Lumpur had both allowed Ahmad Zahid’s application to have his passport temporarily released for a four-week period from October 26 to November 21, to enable him to seek treatment for his neck pain and back pain from a specialist in Munich, Germany.

Those who enter Malaysia from other countries are currently still required to undergo quarantine for a mandatory period of 14 days as a precautionary measure to curb the spread of Covid-19.

By : IDA LIM – MALAY MAIL

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