Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi asked that millions in cash be converted into cheques so that the funds could be deposited into charitable foundation Yayasan Akalbudi’s account, moneychanger Omar Ali Abdullah insisted during the former deputy prime minister’s trial today.
Omar Ali, 48, explained, however, that Zahid did not give instructions on how to convert the cash into cheques.
Omar Ali, who was testifying as the 81st prosecution witness in Zahid’s trial, said that he had used his own initiative to have the cash converted into cheques, as banks would not accept cash deposits exceeding RM50,000.
Today when asked by deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Sazilee Abdul Khairi, Omar Ali confirmed that he had told Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) investigators that Zahid had in 2014 provided him with Yayasan Akalbudi’s bank account number and instructed him to convert cash received into cheques to be deposited into the foundation’s account.
“The instructions from Datuk Seri, I did receive cash, Datuk Seri did call for cheques to be issued for Yayasan Akalbudi,” Omar Ali said in court today.
Confirming that Zahid did not say how the cash could be turned into cheques, Omar Ali went on to reveal what he had done to fulfil the instructions, stating: “The method is simple, I receive cash, I have friends, I convert to cheques, that’s all that I did.”
When asked about his efforts to approach his friends by getting them to issue cheques to repay cash loans given by him or in return for foreign currency exchanges, Omar Ali confirmed this was his own idea in order to procure cheques to be given to Zahid.
“As I have explained just now Yang Arif, if I want to get cheques, I don’t have so many cheques. I can’t get cheques, I ask the help of friends, I give them cash, I take cheques. So that is truly my idea, I asked for cheques,” he said, adding that he would have otherwise been unable to get a sufficient number of cheques.
Based on Omar Ali’s court testimony on Monday, he had helped convert a cumulative total of RM7,511,250.20 or over RM7.5 million worth of cash into 35 cheques all with the law firm “Lewis & Co” stated as the recipient, with these cheques issued during the March 29, 2016 to June 30, 2016 period.
Of the 35 cheques totalling RM7.5 million, 16 of the cheques totalling RM4,559,036 (RM4.56 million) were issued using Omar Ali’s wife’s company Ekares Sdn Bhd’s account. The other cheques included two banker’s cheques of RM50,000 each that Omar Ali had asked his staff to buy, cheques given by money-exchange customers T Rajan, Patt Siew Ming, Hwa Thong Bags Sdn Bhd, Ong Weng Fatt, and Mohyiddin Al Halabi; as well as cheques for loan repayments by K Rajan Gunaretnam, Lee Fook Khuen, HRA Teguh Sdn Bhd, and Cergas Murni Sdn Bhd.
Omar Ali had also testified on Monday that he had handed over these 35 cheques issued in 2016 to Zahid.
Also, on Monday, Omar Ali — who said he has known Zahid since his 20s — had testified that Zahid had told him that he would receive divine blessings for helping to convert the cash into cheques to be deposited into Yayasan Akalbudi’s account. Omar Ali also said Zahid had told him that the cash was all donations for charity.
Omar Ali had also on Monday testified how multiple unknown individuals that Zahid had told him were from Yayasan Al Bukhari had subsequently handed him cash at a shopping mall and hotel lobbies, with the first involving a piece of luggage which he recalled contained possibly in the range of RM1.5 million.
On Monday, Omar Ali had said that Zahid would contact him each time after he received the cash from the unknown individuals to ask for him to convert them into cheques for Yayasan Akalbudi, noting he would deposit the cheques — which he received from his contacts in exchange for cash — into Yayasan Akalbudi’s account and pass the cheque deposit slips to Zahid at the latter’s house.
Omar Ali had also on Monday testified that Zahid had in 2016 instructed that cash received in the future be converted into cheques to be put into Lewis & Co’s bank account, but said he did not ask Zahid why the cheques were to be deposited into Lewis & Co’s account instead of Yayasan Akalbudi’s account.
Asked today by Sazilee about his role in the entire cash-to-cheque conversions, Omar Ali said his task was to follow Zahid’s instructions as Zahid frequently does charity work and he had deposited the funds into Yayasan Akalbudi as he wanted to seek pahala or divine rewards.
Confirming that he had followed instructions as he wanted divine blessings, Omar Ali today confirmed that he did not ask why the funds were not deposited into a foundation instead of being made out to the law firm Lewis & Co.
Asked to explain why the cheques were made out to Lewis & Co, Omar Ali today said this was what Zahid had ordered.
In this trial, Zahid is facing 47 charges, namely 12 counts of criminal breach of trust in relation to Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds, 27 counts of money laundering and eight counts of bribery charges.
In one of the money-laundering charges that Zahid is facing, he was accused of having committed a money-laundering offence by allegedly instructing Omar Ali to allegedly launder over RM6.885 million of illegal funds into 30 cheques that were then passed to Lewis & Co for the purpose of buying fixed deposits in Maybank.
Earlier today, Zahid’s lawyer Datuk Ahmad Zaidi Zainal quizzed Omar Ali on his educational background and reading capabilities with his highest qualifications being a middle school certificate known as Sijil Rendah Pelajaran (SRP) or equivalent to PMR.
Omar Ali said he could read but at a slow pace, asserting that his written court testimony was according to the answers he had given to MACC investigators.
Under cross-examination by Zaidi, Omar Ali agreed that there was no paper trail when he received the cash from the unknown individuals as he did not take down their names or identity card details, further agreeing that the paper trail or money trail began when he converted the cash into cheques.
Omar Ali told Zaidi that he had never directly deposited the cash received into Yayasan Akalbudi account as the banks do not accept cash deposits exceeding RM50,000, confirming that efforts to convert the cash into cheques were his own doing.
When asked by Zaidi about the cash donations alleged to be from Yayasan Al Bukhari, Omar Ali said Zahid had said these were from Yayasan Al Bukhari but noted that he could not verify if it was true that the funds actually originated from this foundation.
Following the cross-examination by Zaidi, Omar Ali was then re-examined by Sazilee where he was able to explain that the actual methods he had used to convert the cash into cheques — via friends who give cheques when exchanging foreign currencies or when repaying his cash loans — were his own initiative. Omar Ali had, however, asserted to Sazilee that Zahid did indeed ask for the conversion of cash into cheques for Yayasan Akalbudi.
The trial before High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah resumes tomorrow. – MMO
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