Zahid’s trial: Defence says RM6m not reward or bribe, but political donation and for charity

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The defence said a prosecution witness had also testified that the corruption charges filed against Zahid were slanderous (fitnah) and it was “ridiculous” for MACC to file charges.

Bernama

Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi today argued that the RM6 million he received in the course of performing his duty as Home Minister was not a reward for giving a contract to a company to insert microchips into Malaysian passports.

Instead, his lawyer submitted that the money given through two transactions of RM5 million and RM1 million was a political donation that included charity.

Hamidi Mohd Noh, who is one of the counsels representing Zahid, dismissed accusations that the money was given to his client as a bribe or reward.

He said a prosecution witness had also testified that the corruption charges filed against Zahid were slander (fitnah).

Hamidi was submitting in respect of Charges 14 and 15, where Ahmad Zahid was accused of receiving RM5 million and RM1 million from Chew Ben Ben (34th prosecution witness) who was then Datasonic Group Bhd deputy managing director.

The monies were allegedly a reward for having DTSB appointed to supply Malaysian passport chips for five years through direct negotiation between the company and the Home Ministry, of which Ahmad Zahid was minister at the time.

The lawyer said it was not unusual for DTSB to be awarded government contracts as the company had established its own reputation and standing in executing government contracts over the years.

He said this fact was supported by testimony from 32nd prosecution witness Datuk Abu Hanifah Noordin (SP32), who was then Datasonic Group Bhd CEO, who stated that Datasonic Group and DTSB had been granted some 30 government projects.

Abu Hanifah testified that since Datasonic Group was listed on Bursa Malaysia, the government projects it received were valued in the region of RM3 billion.

Alluding to Chew’s testimony in court that the two corruption charges against Ahmad Zahid are slanderous, Hamidi said it was “ridiculous” for the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission to file charges and for a witness to then come to court and say that such charges are “fitnah” or slanderous.

High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah then asked for clarification, asking if a witness would be exposing himself if he agreed that there were corrupt practices, “Wouldn’t he be inclined to distance himself from corrupt practices?”

Hamidi then replied: “We submit because there is no corruption, the witness came to court and said it as it is — It is a fitnah. When they give the money, they did not intend to give it as corrupt money.”

Chew had previously told the court that he had in April 2017 handed over the two cheques totalling RM6 million to Ahmad Zahid in the latter’s official residence as deputy prime minister then and had also told the court that the money was meant as “political donations to Barisan Nasional through Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi”.

Describing Chew as the “single most important witness” for the prosecution in both Charges 14 and 15, Hamidi said the witness’ evidence had disputed both the charges and he was mentioned in both the charges as the “giver” of the gratification.

“When they give the money, they did not intend to give it as corrupt money,” he added.

The judge also questioned why the RM6 million, the sum mentioned in Charges 14 and 15, was banked into Yayasan Akalbudi when it was meant as a political donation.

Hamidi replied that SP32, who gave the money, had viewed it as both a political donation as well as an act of charity.

He suggested that if there was really corruption, “the money would have gone by cash or a series of transaction into the accused’s account”, but noted that the RM6 million instead went into Lewis & Co which allegedly holds a client account on trust for Yayasan Akalbudi and claimed this was in line with both Abu Hanifah’s and Chew’s remarks that it was a “donation”.

Disagreeing that Ahmad Zahid as the home minister was the one who appointed Datasonic for the contract, Hamidi argued that it was instead a direct negotiation between Datasonic Technologies and the Finance Ministry and further said the appointment was made by the Finance Ministry.

Hamidi said Datasonic was not informed or told by anyone to seek the contract and that it was their own initiative to do so as they were aware that the previous contract was expiring, also arguing that the contract’s award was proper and not pressured by Ahmad Zahid or the Home Ministry.

“There was no need for them to pay bribe to anyone, because number one, they went in with proper procedures, did not cut queue. Second, it is our contention that it was the Finance Ministry that appointed Datasonic Technologies and not the accused. This is common knowledge, everybody knows that only the Finance Ministry can award the project directly,” he argued, adding that the company had passed the required evaluations of its capabilities in order to receive the contract.

Hamidi said the Home Ministry could not appoint anyone without an open tender, and that directly negotiated projects can only be awarded by the Finance Ministry.

Before the project was awarded, Hamidi noted that Datasonic was required to put its services and capabilities to the test through a “proof of concept”, and that it was based on the success of its proof of concept that the Finance Ministry had awarded the contract, adding: “There were no shortcuts given, they were not given special treatment.”

Hamidi also argued that the contract’s award to Datasonic Technologies had benefitted the government, as Datasonic Technologies had during the negotiations agreed to reduce the price by RM6.25 million, which was an 1.92 percent cost saving from the initial proposed price of RM325 million.

Ultimately, Hamidi argued that the two elements of the two corruption charges — giving of RM6 million as an alleged reward to Ahmad Zahid for the contract award and that the allegation that Ahmad Zahid had appointed Datasonic Technologies for the contract — have not been proven.

In this trial, Zahid ― who is a former home 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 resumes tomorrow.