A company director denied that RM2 million worth of cheques were bribes in exchange for contracts to operate one-stop centres abroad for processing of applications for Malaysian visas.
A letter containing minute notes by former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak triggered the review of Profound Radiance Sdn Bhd (PRSB) after its appointment as the operator of a one-stop centre (OSC) for visa applications in Bangladesh was cancelled in 2015.
Former Home Ministry immigration affairs division secretary Shahril Ismail claimed this in the graft trial of former deputy premier Ahmad Zahid Hamidi at the Kuala Lumpur High Court today.
During cross-examination by defence counsel Ahmad Zaidi Zainal, Shahril testified that Zahid referred him to a November 2015 letter of appeal from PRSB to Najib. On it was minutes allegedly by Najib to Zahid which stated: “Agreed to give chance if no wrongdoing was committed.”
Zaidi: These (minutes by Najib) triggered the whole scenario, your whole testimony today?
After the re-evaluation, PRSB was appointed operators of the migrant visa OSCs in Pakistan and Nepal, effective June 15, 2016.
In his witness statement, Shahril claimed PRSB’s role as the operator for Malaysian visa applications in Bangladesh was cancelled, effective Nov 11, 2015, as the company did not carry out any operations there.
PRSB director Azlan Shah Jaffril had then written an appeal to Najib on Nov 12 that year on which Najib’s minutes were written. Two further appeal letters were written to Zahid in 2016, one of them minuted by Zahid himself.
“I do not know how PRSB could have obtained the minuted letters. There were minutes written by Zahid to me stating ‘please discuss with me and refer to the minutes by PM (prime minister) and explain the true situation to me’,” the witness statement read.
But during cross-examination by Zaidi, Shahril admitted all procedures had been adhered to in the later appointment of PRSB in Pakistan and Nepal. He added Zahid had not issued any specific instructions for approval which contravened procedures.
Meanwhile, Azlan, who later took the stand as the 38th witness, later admitted he issued three cheques, valued at RM2 million, as “political donation to TPM (deputy prime minister)” and as “charity”.
He claimed to have handed the cheques, made out to law firm Lewis & Co, personally to Zahid in three separate meetings – at the deputy prime minister’s office on Aug 2, 2017, for a RM300,000 cheque worth, at the Home Ministry on Jan 4, 2018 (RM1 million) and at Zahid’s residence on Feb 13, 2018 (RM700,000).
“Zahid never asked me for any contributions, and I gave the cheque as a contribution from Profound Radiance Sdn Bhd.
“[…] I handed the contribution to Zahid as he was home minister at the time as well as deputy prime minister responsible for seeking funds for the coming general election,” he said in his witness statement.
He added that upon receiving the PRSB OSC appointment cancellation letter on Nov 11, 2015, he obtained the premier’s minute of approval in the Nov 12, 2015, letter and from the home minister in the January and February 2016 letters.
PRSB later received its appointment letter for the Pakistan and Nepal OSC from the Home Ministry on June 27, 2016.
When asked by Zahid’s lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, Azlan confirmed that he had asked Zahid for tax-exemption receipts for the “donations” and that the latter had said he would arrange for receipts.
Azlan confirmed these three cheques were made payable to the law firm Lewis & Co which he had considered to be a trustee lawyer, agreeing with Hisyam’s suggestion that these payments were all “above board” and “open payments” as they were made payable to lawyers who would be expected to issue receipts.
Zaidi then read out three of the 47 charges that Zahid is facing in this corruption trial.
The three charges alleged that Zahid as home minister had corruptly received bribes from Azlan through three separate cheques on three separate dates in 2017 and 2018 for the sums of RM300,000, RM1 million and RM700,000 issued from Profound Radiance’s Maybank account via Lewis & Co’s Maybank account, allegedly as a reward for the Home Ministry’s appointment of Profound Radiance as the operator of OSCs in Pakistan and Nepal.
When asked by Zaidi if these three charges were accurate, Azlan said all three were “not true”.
Asked by deputy public prosecutor Gan Peng Kun on why he had disagreed with the three charges, Azlan argued that his cheques could not be considered as a bribe-for-contract situation.
Azlan explained: “The charges clearly stated that I gave “suapan” and in return I got contract. The reason why I say it is not correct or disagree is because I gave the donation almost one-and-a-half years after I got the contract. It’s not like I give today, and next month I get the contract.
“That’s why I say I don’t agree with the charges. And the word “suapan” can be construed as I bribed, that’s why I don’t agree with the charges,” he added.
When asked by Gan if any cheques had been given to Zahid for charity purposes prior to Profound Radiance being given the contract to operate OSCs in Nepal and Pakistan, Azlan said that no such cheques were given.
Zahid’s trial involving 47 charges will resume before High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah on March 2.
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