Zahid gets discharge not amounting to acquittal in Yayasan Akalbudi trial

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Judge said it would be a waste of time and public funds if the prosecution later decided not to proceed with the charges.

Ahmad Zamzahuri

The High Court today declined to grant a full acquittal to Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi from all 47 charges in his Yayasan Akalbudi trial as asked by the defence.

Trial judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah gave the order for a discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA) after the prosecution said it would not continue the trial against Zahid.

“In the premises, and for the reasons given, this court makes an order for discharge not amounting to acquittal,” the judge said in delivering his decision.

Deputy public prosecutor Datuk Mohd Dusuki Mokhtar had applied for the DNAA when the trial resumed this morning, but the defence led by Datuk Hisyam Teh had pushed the court for a full acquittal instead.

A DNAA means an accused person can face trial for the same charges in the future if the prosecution decides to reinstate them.

After having stood down to deliberate for more than an hour, Judge Sequerah then delivered his decision to a packed courtroom where nearly 40 people took up all the seats available in the public gallery.

Throughout the judge’s reading of his judgment, Zahid appeared calm and stoic, while seated in the accused’s dock, and maintained an emotionless expression even to the end of the judgment.

Judge Sequerah noted that the prosecution’s reasons for seeking a DNAA included the reason of the need to further investigate the charges against Zahid and that a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) will be formed on the contents of former attorney-general Tan Sri Tommy Thomas’s book.

The judge also noted that Zahid’s lawyers had asked for a full acquittal with their main reason being that the prosecution has not given a timeline for the investigations’ completion and for the setting up of the RCI and the conclusion of the RCI findings.

“It is clear that the reason given by the prosecution that investigations are still ongoing, as a result of representations made by the defence,” the judge said.

Earlier today, Dusuki had explained that further investigations on Zahid’s case had to be carried out, following the representations from Zahid to the attorney general to ask for all 47 charges to be reviewed.

But the judge pointed out that the representations from Zahid involved hundreds of pages, saying: “It is therefore justified that the prosecution needs more time to examine these representations which also involves taking statements from various individuals.”

“Numerous other reasons were also given. The reasons given by the learned DPP, including that of the setting up of the RCI, although they do not have a timeline do not in any manner suggest that as far as the charges involved in this case, that that is the end of the matter. The prosecution in my mind has given cogent reasons why they seek DNAA in this case,” the judge said.

The judge also said the facts in Zahid’s case could be distinguished from or are different from the past court judgments that Hisyam had cited to argue for a full acquittal on Zahid, adding that those High Court cases also do not bind this High Court.

For example, the judge said those past court cases included situations where the prosecution did not state clearly why the accused should be granted a DNAA, unlike Zahid’s case where the prosecution listed at least 11 reasons when seeking for a DNAA.

The judge also said a Federal Court case that Hisyam had cited involved a situation where trial had yet to start as no evidence had been presented to the court yet.

In contrast, the judge said Zahid’s trial had started on November 18, 2019, with the prosecution having called a total of 99 witnesses and Zahid’s lawyers having called 15 defence witnesses so far.

Having listed these reasons, the judge then gave a court order for a DNAA on Zahid.

But before concluding the court proceedings, the judge also said it would be a waste of time and public funds if the prosecution later decides not to proceed with the charges.

“Before I adjourn, I wish to place on record that although the powers of the attorney general — under Article 145(3) of the Federal Constitution and Section 254 of the Criminal Procedure Code to institute and withdraw charges at any time before judgment is passed — is unquestioned, should the prosecution decide in the near future that they will not proceed with any further with the charges, then much precious judicial time would have been wasted and a great amount of taxpayers’ money would also have been wasted,” the judge said at around 11.50am.

The High Court’s decision to grant a DNAA for Zahid’s case follows the prosecution stating that it wishes to temporarily stop prosecuting the case pending further investigations.

This comes after Zahid’s lawyers’ August 24 statement, which had urged Attorney General Tan Sri Idrus Harun to speed up his decision on Zahid’s application to have all 47 charges reviewed. Idrus’s contract as AG ends tomorrow, with Solicitor General Datuk Ahmad Terrirudin Mohd Salleh to succeed him as AG this Wednesday.

On December 8, 2022, and January 25 this year, Zahid’s lawyers had sent representation letters along with documents numbering over 200 pages to the prosecution to ask the attorney general to review the 47 charges against him.

The defence had claimed that there was “new evidence” in Zahid’s case and that the investigation against him was “defective” due to the short four-month investigation period because of the alleged haste to charge him.

The defence also claimed that the prosecution against Zahid was political in nature.

Even while speaking to the media at around noon at the court complex, Zahid remained calm and stoic without showing much emotion in both his expression and voice, as he thanked “Allah”, his lawyers and those who had supported him.

Zahid was later seen smiling while leaving the court complex in a white-coloured Lexus vehicle, as photographers from the media took his photographs and amid brief shouts of “Allahu Akbar” from his supporters. A lone cry of “Lawan tetap lawan (Never give up the fight)” was also heard just shortly before Zahid went into the car which drove off.

Zahid, who is also Umno president and Barisan Nasional chairman, was facing 47 charges including for the dishonest misappropriation of funds from his charitable foundation Yayasan Akalbudi.

The 47 charges are namely, 12 counts of criminal breach of trust in relation to over RM31 million of Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds, 27 counts of money laundering, and eight counts of bribery charges of over RM21.25 million in alleged bribes.

The 12 counts of criminal breach of trust were in relation to the alleged misappropriation of Yayasan Akalbudi funds, namely RM1.3 million via 43 cheques for his and his wife’s credit card bills; RM107,509.55 via three cheques for vehicle insurance and road tax for 20 privately-owned vehicles; an RM1.3 million cheque to the police’s football association; an RM10 million cheque for a loan to Armada Holdings Sdn Bhd; RM360,000 via two cheques to political consultancy firm TS Consultancy & Resources; and over RM17.9 million of funds transferred from Yayasan Akalbudi to law firm Lewis & Co.

Yayasan Akalbudi was founded with the purported objectives of receiving and administering funds for the eradication of poverty and enhancing the welfare of the poor.

Zahid’s trial began on November 18, 2019, and about 116 days of hearing have taken place since then.

After 99 prosecution witnesses testified in the trial, the High Court on January 24, 2022, ordered Zahid to enter defence on all 47 charges.

So far, Zahid and 14 other defence witnesses have testified, with his lawyers indicating last month of plans to call another 17 defence witnesses.

The trial was initially scheduled to continue today.

The other hearing dates scheduled for the trial were September 5 to 7, October 31, November 1, November 17, November 20 to 24, November 27 to 29, December 4 to 7 and December 11 to 15.

Lawyer Chan Yen Hui held a watching brief for the Malaysian Bar. – MMO