Lawyer B Muralidharan, a partner of the legal firm Lewis & Co, said he was appointed as a trustee for Yayasan Al-Falah owned by Zahid’s family and chaired by the latter’s younger brother, Datuk Seri Mohamad Nasaee Ahmad Tarmizi.
However, this was later disputed by Yayasan Al-Falah trustee Faisalluddin Mohamat Yusuff, who said the foundation did not hire or appoint any law firm to manage their bank account.
Earlier, Muralidharan, who was the 87th prosecution witness, said Zahid had directed his law firm to handle and manage funds on behalf of Yayasan Al-Falah worth millions of ringgit.
Muralidharan said he received instructions from Zahid to transfer cheques that the foundation received into its fixed deposit account.
However, the 62-year-old lawyer failed to provide any written document on the appointment of Lewis & Co as a trustee.
“All I have is a letter written to me by Yayasan Al-Falah, signed by its chairman (Nasaee), asking me to appeal against the freeze of the bank account by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).
“Yayasan Al-Falah is a family foundation…both of them (Zahid and Nasaee) initiated the foundation and they knew the monies I was holding was actually for charitable and religious activities,” he said.
Lewis & Co has been identified as the trustee for Yayasan Akalbudi, from which Zahid is accused of having misappropriated funds.
It was reported that Zahid, through Yayasan Akalbudi, donated RM5.9 million to Yayasan Al-Falah to buy two properties for his religious activities.
Later, when asked by deputy public prosecutor Datuk Raja Rozela Raja Toran why the court should believe him (about being appointed Yayasan Al-Falah trustee), he said he did not gain any profit from the appointment.
“This is a family foundation…I just received instructions from Zahid and did not derive any benefit from this whole thing,” he said.
Meanwhile, Muralidharan’s testimony was refuted by Faisalluddin, who is also the foundation’s lawyer when he took the witness stand later.
He said the foundation never appointed Lewis & Co to manage its bank accounts or act in any other capacity.
He said he was ‘shocked’ over the statement by Muralidharan, which was not true.
“We (Yayasan Al-Falah) had never appointed Lewis & Co or Muralidharan as lawyer or trustee,” he said.
“I was brought onto the board of trustees in 2014 and to my knowledge, we did not appoint them to manage our accounts.
“In fact, this is my first time meeting Muralidharan – when we sat in the court witness waiting room just now,” he added.
He said Zahid did not have any interest in Yayasan Al-Falah as Nasaee was the one who controlled the foundation’s finances and management.
However, he explained that there were similarities between both foundations (Yayasan Al-Falah and Yayasan Akalbudi).
“Yayasan Al-Falah was founded for the family of Hamidi@Ahmad Tarmizi’s family, while I was made to understand that Yayasan Akalbudi is a foundation specific to Zahid only.
“Hamidi is the biological father of Zahid and Nasaee.
“Both of them (foundations) shared the same objective, which is to give donations and empower Islamic religion in this country,” he said.
Faisalluddin has been recalled for cross-examination by the defence, as the prosecution last week amended the criminal breach of trust charge to state that Zahid was entrusted with dominion over property with the foundation (Yayasan Akalbudi) under Section 409 of the Penal Code.
Faisalluddin, however, said he did not have any knowledge on the latter issued by Yayasan Al-Falah to Lewis & Co (to appeal against the freeze of a bank account by the MACC.
“Yes, I can verify that this latter was signed by our chairman (Nasaee) but this does not mean we appointed them (Lewis & Co) to act on behalf of the foundation.
“I think the only person who can verity this (on the appointment of Lewis & Co) is my chairman,” he said.
He said he asked Nasee several times whether they (Yayasan Al-Falah) appointed Lewis & Co as their trustee, which the latter denied.
“He told me we never appointed any law firm to manage our bank account,” he said.
Faisalludin agreed with Ahmad Zaidi that he and the other two members of the board of trustees never gave any instruction to Muralidharan to issue any cheque to be deposited into Lewis & Co’s client fixed deposit account.
Ahmad Zaidi: Have you or the other two board of trustees members given any instruction to Muralidharan to issue any cheque to any individual, company, bank and so forth?
When re-examined by deputy public prosecutor Lee Keng Fatt on whether every contribution received by Yayasan Al-Falah needed the approval of the board of trustees, Faisalludin said: “Yes.”
Meanwhile, Chia Bee Enterprise Sdn Bhd’s director today said he did not know why the company had issued and paid out cheques totalling RM10 million in 2016, while also saying that he had took up the position as a director in the company on the request of his late employer Datuk Seri Lau Hui Kang of Sarawak’s KTS Group.
Wong Hee Sing, 65, who has also been working as a manager in Sarawak-based KTS Timber Products Sdn Bhd since 1973, said he has been a director in Chia Bee Enterprise Sdn Bhd since his appointment in 2008.
The 88th prosecution witness said that his employer Lau had died in 2006, noting however that the timber tycoon had prior to his death asked him to help handle Chia Bee Enterprise as he had knowledge about the company’s operations and as the company was formerly owned by KTS Group before Prime Lumber Holding took over as the shareholder.
“I confirm that I was appointed on June 5, 2008, until now, as requested by Wong Sang Woo (Paul Wong) who is a Singaporean businessman and a close friend of my late boss Datuk Seri Lau Hui Kang,” he told the High Court today, noting that Lau had “reminded” him previously to help with Chia Bee Enterprise.
Wong, however, said he did not know Paul personally, but has known of the Singaporean for more than 20 years only as Lau’s close friend and confirmed that Paul is still a director of Chia Bee Enterprise.
Wong said he does not know where Paul is currently located and guessed his age to be around 80 years old, saying he did not know how close Paul and Lau were as friends but said he thinks that they were together quite often.
Asked by Zahid’s lawyer Hamidi Mohd Noh, Wong confirmed that he did not know if Paul is a rich person or if he is a philanthropist who generously gives out many donations to charities, and further said he had no knowledge why the RM10 million was paid out from Chia Bee Enterprise.
Hamidi sought to suggest that the cheques in 2016 totalling RM10 million were paid by Paul to Zahid’s Yayasan Akalbudi for charitable purposes, but Wong maintained that he did not know the purpose of the payments.
Asked by Hamidi, Wong said he did not know Zahid personally and only knew the latter to be the deputy prime minister until 2018, also saying he had no knowledge if it is common for political persons like Zahid to have charitable foundations or if Paul donated to Zahid’s charity.
Hamidi sought to suggest that Paul knew Zahid personally and were good friends since 2015, further suggesting that the duo had discussed for Paul to donate the RM10 million to Yayasan Akalbudi to build a mosque and a tahfiz school in Bagan Datuk and to buy two bungalows in Country Heights for RM5.9 million.
But Wong again said he had no knowledge about these matters.
Hamidi further suggested that Zahid had in 2016 explained to Paul that the funds were needed for Yayasan Akalbudi’s charitable works and that the Singaporean businessman had believed that the request was genuine and that he was then asked to make the RM10 million payment to law firm Lewis & Co, but Wong again said he did not know about these matters.
Wong agreed that the cheques totalling RM10 million that were issued in 2016 to law firm Lewis & Co meant that the transactions were all recorded and traceable, further agreeing that cheques would not be used but cash would be used if the funds were “dirty money or illegal money or laundered money”.
Among other things, Wong confirmed that Chia Bee Enterprise is a dormant company with no business activities.
Wong had also confirmed in his witness’ testimony today that he does not know about the reason of the RM10 million payment by Chia Bee Enterprise to Lewis & Co, also saying he had never known of Yayasan Akalbudi or Yayasan Al-Falah or Lewis & Co previously.
“I never knew and I don’t have knowledge about the source of money amounting to RM10,000,000,” he also said.
Previously, Maybank Central Square operations officer Sharifah Shifah Syed Zainol had as the 49th prosecution witness confirmed that Chia Bee Enterprise had issued a total of 10 cheques for RM1 million each all dated April 21, 2016, or for a total of RM10 million to Lewis & Co’s client account.
Lewis & Co’s partner Muralidharan Balan Pillai had also previously testified that 10 cheques totalling RM10 million issued from Chia Bee Enterprise was given to him by Zahid and deposited into the law firm’s client account to be held on trust for Zahid’s family’s Yayasan Al-Falah.
Ahmad Zahid, 67, is facing 27 counts of money laundering, 12 counts of criminal breach of trust and eight counts of corruption involving funds belonging to Yayasan Akalbudi.
The trial continues before Judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah.
Nov 21, Zahid’s Trial: Day Four
Nov 21, Zahid’s Trial: Day Three
Nov 19, Zahid’s Trial: Day Two