Zahid would have been well aware of what the cheques were used for based on the cheque butts.
Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had actually known from the start that the funds of charitable foundation Yayasan Akalbudi — where he is a trustee — were being misused for other purposes such as to pay for his and his wife’s personal credit card bills, the prosecution told the High Court today.
The prosecution said that evidence showed that Ahmad Zahid was the one who had actually given the instructions to his then executive secretary Major Mazlina Mazlan @ Ramly to use Yayasan Akalbudi’s cheques to make the credit card payments, further accusing the former deputy prime minister of having later tried to push the blame on “scapegoats” like the secretary.
Ahmad Zahid is facing 12 counts of criminal breach of trust charges in this trial, where he is accused of having dishonestly misappropriated RM31 million of Yayasan Akalbudi funds — where he is also the sole authorised signatory — for his own benefit.
Out of the 12 charges, 11 charges revolve around the use of 50 Yayasan Akalbudi cheques totalling more than RM13 million for purposes that went against the foundation’s aim of eradicating poverty and enhancing the poor’s welfare — including RM1.3 million via 43 cheques for the credit card bills of Ahmad Zahid and his wife from January 2014 to January 2016.
Lead prosecutor Datuk Raja Rozela Raja Toran argued that Mazlina was merely executing orders from Ahmad Zahid regarding the use of funds from Yayasan Akalbudi, saying that Ahmad Zahid should be the one held responsible instead.
“The defence would have us believe that the accused did not know anything, totally oblivious about Major Mazlina using Akalbudi cheques, Major Mazlina using the signature stamp, and so they are happy to point the finger of blame to the secretary.
“Now, in fact, My Lord, in doing that, we submit that the accused is determined to make Major Mazlina as his scapegoat, whereas there is plenty of evidence to show that he was the one who gave the consent, he knew from day one of the use of Akalbudi cheques.
“We say that he should take responsibility for the acts of his secretary. And because it is clear from the evidence of the misuse of cheques, misuse of Akalbudi cheques was because, or due to his instruction, due to his permission with his knowledge,” she said.
Raja Rozela was referring to Ahmad Zahid’s lawyers’ claim that their client allegedly did not know and did not authorise Mazlina to use a stamp of his signature on Yayasan Akalbudi cheques for the credit card payments, as well as their insistence that the former secretary was to be blamed for the alleged mistake of not using Ahmad Zahid’s personal cheque book to pay for the credit cards.
Among other things, Raja Rozela noted Mazlina’s previous court testimony that Ahmad Zahid did conduct spot checks on Yayasan Akalbudi bank statements and cheque books once or twice a year but that he did not say anything at each spot check, noting that Mazlina had also confirmed that she had written down what the cheques were used for at the cheque butts.
“So obviously, it can be inferred, by conducting the spot checks on Akalbudi’s statements and cheque book, both Maybank as well as Akalbudi cheque books, the accused would have been well aware of what the cheques were used for based on the cheque butts,” she said.
The Yayasan Akalbudi trustee’s false SD content
Raja Rozela today highlighted that Yayasan Akalbudi fellow trustee and Bagan Datuk Umno leader Datuk Khairuddin Tarmizi’s 2017 statutory declaration with false content about the use of the charity’s money for the credit card bills was a piece of court evidence that showed Ahmad Zahid’s “guilty mind”.
Raja Rozela said that the statutory declaration had shown that Ahmad Zahid actually knew that the money of Yayasan Akalbudi had been misused as early as 2014 for the credit card payments, having noted that the statutory declaration was prepared by a lawyer on Ahmad Zahid’s instructions.
Khairuddin had previously admitted in court that three paragraphs in the statutory declaration were false, namely his claim that Ahmad Zahid had some time in 2014 and 2015 gave him some credit cards bills to settle, as well as his claim that he had thought he could use Yayasan Akalbudi funds to pay the bills since a major portion of the foundation’s funds were allegedly personally contributed by Ahmad Zahid.
Khairuddin had also admitted as fake the paragraph where he claimed that Ahmad Zahid had paid back and refunded RM805,768.16 to the foundation in relation to the credit card payments.
“It is obvious that the accused had made use of Khairuddin as a scapegoat,” Raja Rozela said.
“Now there is an Australian saying, when you are in a hole, stop digging. He knew he had used the cards, he had used the Akalbudi funds meant for the poor to pay his credit cards,” Raja Rozela said, concluding that the statutory declaration ultimately points to Ahmad Zahid’s “guilty mind” as the accused.
Charity’s cheques for credit card bills stopped after MACC started asking
Raja Rozela also highlighted that Mazlina had previously testified that Ahmad Zahid had asked her to stop using Yayasan Akalbudi cheques for the credit card payments after the last such payment in early 2016, as there was a rumour that went around in early 2016 that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) had begun to make inquiries about Ahmad Zahid and his involvement in Yayasan Akalbudi.
Mazlina had also said that Ahmad Zahid then gave her cash to pay for the personal credit card bills.
Raja Rozela said this showed Ahmad Zahid’s knowledge about the use of Yayasan Akalbudi cheques for such personal purposes.
“The evidence adduced by the prosecution is overwhelming to show that the issuance of the relevant cheques belonging to Akalbudi by Mazlina was done with the knowledge of the accused, and upon his instruction that she make payments for credit card bills,” she said.
Ahmad Zahid’s lawyers had tried to challenge Mazlina’s credibility as a witness by highlighting her carelessness and alleged negligence, but Raja Rozela said the prosecution’s star witness is a credible witness who has always been forthright and had even readily owned up to all her clerical mistakes.
Raja Rozela said Mazlina had made no attempts to varnish her testimony and had consistently testified of Ahmad Zahid having given approval for the Yayasan Akalbudi cheques and his signature stamp to be used on those cheques for credit card payments when he is out of the office.
Raja Rozela said Mazlina had carried out her responsibilities of handling Ahmad Zahid’s finances to the best of her ability, noting that Mazlina is a military officer by training who is trained to receive and execute orders that are given.
“Given that background of Major Mazlina, I submit it’s highly unlikely that Mazlina will go on a frolic on her own to write out cheques making payment. Her conduct in writing out the cheques was a direct order or direction, instruction from the accused, and these cheques, these payments benefit no other than the accused himself.
“I would submit that her conduct and her actions in writing out the cheques are consistent with that of a soldier obeying the commands of her superior force,” she said, having noted Mazlina having worked from 2011 to 2018 as secretary to Ahmad Zahid.
Even if Mazlina may have been careless in handling the credit card payments, there is no evidence at all to imply she had acted in bad faith and there is no basis to even infer she had acted with ulterior motive to implicate Ahmad Zahid, Raja Rozela argued.
Despite Ahmad Zahid’s lawyers attempting to show Mazlina’s negligence in handling his finances, Raja Rozela pointed out that there were no attempts to have her removed from when Ahmad Zahid was defence minister or deputy prime minister, when a superior would have removed a secretary if found to be unreliable or up to no good.
“Now even after MACC came in, and he told Major Mazlina not to pay anymore, he was not angry with her, in fact he gave her cash to go pay his credit cards. If you don’t believe your own secretary, if he had thought she was unreliable, why give her cash?” she said.
“So, looking at the circumstances, looking at the Major Mazlina’s demeanour, Major Mazlina’s conduct, while giving evidence, we humbly urge Your Lordship to find that Major Mazlina is a credible, is a reliable witness,” she said.
In this trial, Ahmad Zahid ― who is a former deputy prime 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 before High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah resumes on Wednesday. – MMO