A crucial element missing from the prosecution’s case against Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was how the money was delivered, ruled Shah Alam High Court judge Mohd Yazid Mustafa.
Yazid, in acquitting the Umno president of graft charges today, said this was unlike how prosecutors had, in vivid detail, explained how the money was delivered to the wife of former premier Najib Abdul Razak, Rosmah Mansor, in an unrelated trial.
Yazid said all three key witnesses who testified against Zahid claimed that they paid bribes to the Bagan Datuk MP in cash and that the money was delivered inside a brown envelope.
“Initially, the monthly amount was SG$200,000 (RM650,000) but was subsequently increased to SG$300,000 and finally SG$520,000. For months of default, the amount would then be doubled up for the following months.
“For instance, if they did not pay in January, the amount will be paid together in February. Again, they were all placed in an envelope.
“In comparison to Rosmah’s case, the first delivery of RM5 million in cash on Dec 20, 2016, was split into two bags of RM2.5 million each. For the second delivery of RM1.5 million, the monies were put into two knapsacks.
“In Zahid’s case, the prosecution did not produce any sample envelope. No evidence led to show the size of the envelope used.
“I simply cannot imagine what envelope (and) in what size could fit the SG$600,000 in cash which was equivalent to around RM1.6 million at the material time,” he said.
The prosecution did not provide any other evidence to back their claims either, he said, such as CCTV footage, Touch n’ Go transaction slips, phone call logs and messages.
Apart from that, there were also no testimonies of drivers conducting the alleged delivery nor from security guards and police personnel, the judge added.
Where did the money come from?
Again referring to Rosmah’s case, Yazid said the prosecution in that case provided testimonies of individuals who took out the bribe money and the bank staff involved. A bank cheque was also furnished as evidence.
“This circumstantial evidence as highlighted in Rosmah’s case was all absent in the present case. Likewise, photographs were taken and a sketch plan was made in Rosmah’s case but not in the present case,” the judge added.
Yazid also ruled that the prosecution failed to provide the testimony of Nicole Tan to explain her role in funding RM238 million which was allegedly used to pay the bribes, according to Ultra Kirana Sdn Bhd’s (UKSB) so-called secret ledger.
This secret ledger was a key component of the case as it allegedly recorded UKSB’s bribes to various politicians, including Zahid.
The judge noted that Tan and two money changers, who would have knowledge of the source of the bribe money, were not produced as witnesses during the trial.
“Apart from Tan, it would appear that based on the deposit section of the ledger, monies were also received from 15 other parties but it was never explained or clarified by any prosecution witnesses as to whom these 15 parties were and how they were involved in the matter,” Yazid said.
‘Secret’ ledger has no weightage
The judge also found that three key prosecution witnesses – former UKSB administrative manager David Tan Siong Sun and former directors Harry Lee and Wan Quoris Shah Wan Abdul Ghani – were unreliable.
In particular, Yazid drew attention to the fact that David Tan – who created the ledger – had admitted during cross examination that the second delivery of RM3 million in cash by way of a luggage bag was an afterthought.
“The admission of an afterthought by this key prosecution witness is more than sufficient for me to find that he has zero credibility,” he said.
David Tan’s testimony explained the identities of recipients of “political donations” from UKSB as recorded in the “secret” ledger, where the names of the recipients were recorded in code.
The judge said the blank “remarks” column on the ledger gave rise to the possibility that no money was actually paid to the alleged recipients.
“The blank ‘remark’ columns give rise to a possible inference as suggested by the defence that the monies could have been distributed among the three key witnesses as they maintained a luxurious lifestyle.
“Each of them had one unit of property in Pavilion, Wan Quoris also owned a bungalow house in Putrajaya and a semi-detached house in Cyberjaya, two Range Rovers, expensive motorcycles and tax payments in the millions.
“Without strong evidential support, I simply cannot consciously make a finding that the monies were in fact received by Zahid as suggested by the prosecution based on transactions recorded in the ledger with no record that the monies were in fact received by the accused in the ‘remark’ columns,” he said.
“I find that the evidence of the key prosecution witnesses – David Tan, Lee and Wan Quoris – were not credible, not trustworthy, or believable.
“I, therefore, find that there should be no weightage given to the ledger,” he added.
40 main charges
The former deputy prime minister was charged with 33 counts of receiving bribes from UKSB amounting to SG$13.56 million (RM43.6 million) between 2014 and 2017.
Another seven charges accused Zahid of obtaining SG$1.15 million, RM3.125 million, 15,000 Swiss francs (RM70,000) and US$15,000 (RM68,000) from the same company.
Zahid was accused of receiving bribes to extend UKSB’s contract to operate the one-stop centre (OSC) service in China and the VLN system, as well as to maintain its contract with the Home Ministry to supply the VLN integrated system.
The charges were framed under Section 16 (a)(B) of the MACC Act 2009, which provides for a maximum of 20 years in jail and a fine of not less than five times the value of the gratification or RM10,000, whichever is higher. – Malaysiakini