Mahdzir Denies Hiring Lawyer to Broker Deal with AGC

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Former education minister Mahdzir Khalid today denied in court that he had hired a lawyer to broker a deal with the Attorney-General’s Chambers to avoid prosecution in the solar hybrid project case.

Contents of letter from his lawyer shows Mahdzir:

  • Instructed his lawyer to write to the AGC regarding the solar hybrid project
  • Wished to cooperate with the authorities
  • Willing to testify against prime movers of the scheme

Referring to his testimony on February 11, lead defence lawyer Jagjit Singh asked Mahdzir if he had hired Vignesh Kumar Chellapa from Vignesh Kumar and Associates to broker a deal with the AGC.

Seth Akmal/TMI

Mahdzir denied this but admitted he had appointed the lawyer when he was called to have his statement taken by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in connection with the solar hybrid project.

Jagjit: Remember on Tuesday, you denied hiring Vignesh Kumar Chellapa from Vignesh Kumar and Associates to broker a deal with the AGC.

Mahdzir: I denied, but I didn’t say I never hired him.

Jagjit then rebutted Mahdzir, saying that on Tuesday, the Umno lawmaker agreed he did not engage Vignesh Kumar. Jagjit then asked his co-counsel, Akberdin Abdul Kader, to repeat the question to the witness in Bahasa Malaysia.

Soon after Akberdin posed the question, deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Akram Gharib objected to the line of questioning, telling the court that the defence was trying to confuse the witness.

Akram said that on Tuesday, the defence had only asked the witness if he had hired lawyer Vignesh Kumar to broker a deal. Akram said the witness was not asked if he had ever appointed the lawyer for any other reason.

High Court judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan agreed with Akram, saying that, according to his minutes, the defence had asked the witness if he hired lawyer Vignesh Kumar specifically to broker a deal. Akberdin said it was part of the question.

Zaini: Even when I recall (it), I can only remember the defence putting the question to the witness (on whether) he had hired Vignesh to “broker” a deal with the MACC. He was not asked if he had hired a lawyer.

Akberdin: Appointing the lawyer is part of the question. You cannot broker a deal without having a lawyer. It comes together.

Zaini then told Akberdin that it would be best if he cross-examined the witness on that point. Akberdin proceeded.

Akberdin asked Mazhzir what his purpose was in hiring a lawyer, to which the latter responded saying it was over the MACC matter. Akberdin then accused Mahdzir of being evasive.

The defence then produced a letter from the law firm addressed to the AGC dated November 27, 2018.

In the letter, it was stated the firm was representing the former education minister and that it was instructed to write to the AGC regarding the solar hybrid project.

It further stated that its client (Mahdzir) would like to cooperate with the authorities and was willing to give a further statement on the matter.

It also said that Mahdzir was willing to testify against the prime movers of the scheme should he be called as a prosecution witness, as his “proposed evidence” would strengthen prosecution’s case.

Jagjit then asked who he had meant by prime movers, but Mahdzir said he couldn’t answer that. He also disagreed that the prime movers were Rosmah Mansor’s then aide, Rizal Mansor, or Jepak Holdings Sdn Bhd managing director Saidi Abang Samsudin.

Jagjit: Who are the prime movers? What do you mean by prime movers?

Mahdzir: I cannot answer.

Jagjit: I put it to you that you cannot answer because you don’t want to answer. I suggest that prime movers are Rizal Mansor and Saidi.

Mahzir: Disagree.

Mahdzir was then asked if he had a copy of the letter as it was forwarded to him, but he denied receiving it.

Later, citing the phrase “proposed evidence” from the letter, Jagjit then accused the witness of trying to “fix up” Rosmah, which Mahdzir denied.

Rosmah, the 69-year-old wife of former prime minister Najib Razak, faces three corruption charges, including for soliciting RM187.5 million from Saidi as an inducement to help the company secure the solar hybrid project to supply electricity to 369 schools in rural Sarawak.

She is also accused of receiving bribes totalling RM6.5 million from Saidi in 2016 and 2017. – TMI