Five cheques worth a total of RM366,000 given to a moneychanger in exchange for foreign currencies were instead credited into the supposed proxy accounts of Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, the High Court was told today.
The cheques, made out for RM76,000, RM67,000, RM75,000, RM83,000, and RM65,000 on July 15, 2016, were issued and verified by retiree T Rajan who took the stand today as the prosecution’s 42nd witness in Zahid’s RM6 million corruption trial.
Rajan explained to the court that he handed the cheques to a person only identified as Omar, whom he said received them on behalf of the moneychanger.
During the examination in chief, Rajan explained that he was looking to convert the Malaysian ringgit into Australian dollars, explaining that he later received around A$90,000 dollars from the money-changer which he used as a down-payment to purchase a property in Australia for his daughter.
However, when asked if he knew the cheques were eventually made out to law firm Lewis & Co, Rajan answered in the negative and explained that he normally issued cheques to the moneychanger without any payee’s information filled in.
“The cheques which I handed over I only inserted the date, the amount, and my signature, with the rest left blank,” he answered Deputy Public Prosecutor Harris Ong Mohd Jeffery Ong.
He said this was his usual practice when dealing with the moneychanger, adding that he broke the amount up into five separate cheques to avoid the large transactions from being reported by banks’ internal reporting systems.
The retiree explained this was normal practice for him when looking to convert currencies before embarking on trips abroad, saying he usually gave the moneychanger cheques to be cashed out, cheques which he said were handed to Omar almost every time.
However, Rajan told the court he is unaware who the recipients Lewis & Co were, saying he did not think much of the matter after he received his Australian dollars from the money changer.
Rajan testified that officials from the bank did reach out to verify and confirm the transactions with him, by providing him the cheque number and recipient’s name.
Harris: When did you find out the cheques were paid to Lewis & Co?
Rajan: About two weeks later, the bank called and asked if I issued the cheques and I confirmed and said yes. They gave me the cheque number and I said yes.
Harris: They (the bank) told you the cheques were paid out to Lewis & Co?
Harris: When the bank told you the cheques were paid out to Lewis & Co, what was your reaction?
Rajan: Nothing. I don’t know who is Lewis & Co. Besides, I already got my money, so when the bank asked if I issued the cheques I said yes.
Harris: Can you tell the court why you did not ask this Omar why the payments were made to Lewis & Co?
Rajan: To me, I’ve already got my cash after I gave him the cheques. I didn’t see any reason to ask why it was paid to this particular entity.
Three others also took the stand today, including Maybank Wisma FGV branch assistant manager Syarul Ridzwan Nawawi as the prosecution’s 41st witness.
Syarul was called to court today where he confirmed that the aforementioned cheques issued by Rajan were indeed cashed into an account registered under Lewis & Co Clients Account.
CIMB’s Menara Binjai branch customer service department’s assistant manager Sharifah Azpaniza Syed Mustapha testified in the trial as the 40th witness today.
Sharifah was made to verify 16 cheques worth a total of RM4.55 million issued by Ekares Sdn Bhd to the account of Lewis & Co during the period between April 21 to June 30, 2016, to which she answered in the affirmative that the cheques were cashed out as intended.
The final witness for the day was Taman Sri Gombak Maybank branch assistant manager Azman Mat Noor who was called in to verify a cheque of RM2 million that was issued by one Mubarak Hussain Akhtar Husin also to the Lewis & Co account on November 25, 2016.
The relevance of the cheques issued by Ekares and Mubarak Hussain to Lewis & Co to today’s trial has not been established in court yet.
In this trial, Zahid is accused of having received two cheques totalling RM6 million as a bribe and as an alleged reward linked to the Home Ministry’s award of a five-year contract to Datasonic Technologies Sdn Bhd for the supply of Malaysian passport chips.
The trial before High Court Judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah resumes on March 23. – MMO
Nov 21, Zahid’s Trial: Day Four
Nov 21, Zahid’s Trial: Day Three
Nov 19, Zahid’s Trial: Day Two