KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 4 — Cheques used to pay Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s extensive AmBank credit card bills may not have been hand signed by the former minister himself, but could have used a signature stamp of its likeness, his lawyer suggested suggested in court yesterday.
At the Umno president’s trial on 47 charges of misappropriating RM31 million from a charity organisation, his defence lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik also highlighted that one of these payments could have been done while Zahid was abroad and may not have been paid by him personally.
HIsyam was cross-examining AmBank senior vice-president Yeoh Eng Leong over 37 payments through local cheques totalling more than RM1.29 million over a two-year period between January 2014 and January 2016 for bills racked up Zahid and his wife Datin Seri Hamidah Khamis in four credit cards issued by one of Malaysia’s largest banks, AmBank.
Hisyam: In your statement, you said two cheques out of 37 payments were returned. Do you know the reason for the two cheques’ return?
Yeoh: No, I don’t.
Hisyam also asked Yeoh regarding AmBank’s records of a RM18,002.82 payment in a local cheque for Zahid’s Mastercard on November 7, 2014, pointing out that the latter was not in Malaysia on that day.
Hisyam: If I were to put it to you on that day your cardholder Datuk Seri was overseas, can you confirm that if I were to say to you on that day your cardholder was overseas when payment was made?
“Yes, I can confirm from the transaction in Milan,” Yeoh replied, referring to AmBank records of Zahid’s Mastercard being used in Italy on November 7, 2014.
But when the lawyer asked if the payment could have been made by Zahid’s personal assistant at that time, known only as “Major Mazlina”, Yeoh said he had no knowledge.
When shown the original cheque, Yeoh confirmed that it was dated November 6, 2014, but said he could not be sure if Zahid was also overseas on that date.
The lawyer then suggested that the November 6, 2014 cheque was made out by Major Mazlina, but Yeoh again said he had no knowledge if this was done.
Hisyam then told Yeoh that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) had sent 32 cheques to the Department of Chemistry Malaysia for an expert document examiner to verify the signatures on the cheques.
It was the same chemist report the lawyer showed to the court when he suggested to Maybank vice-president Anoop Singh Gulzara Singh that six cheques paid to Maybank for Zahid’s credit card bills had stamped signatures.
The lawyer disclosed that of the 32 cheques, the signatures on 25 were found to have been made using a stamp instead of being handwritten.
He showed the Chemistry Department’s report dated February 28, 2019 report to court and to the prosecution witness and said the cheques referred by the expert matched 25 of the 35 cheques that were paid to AmBank for Zahid and his wife’s credit card bills.
Yeoh said he did not know that the cheques were sent to government chemists for analysis.
He also said he did not know of the findings that the 25 cheques payable to AmBank bore stamped signatures.
Hisyam then suggested that Zahid did not stamp these cheques himself, but that those 25 cheques were allegedly stamped by Zahid’s personal assistant then Major Mazlina.
In reply, Yeoh said he did not know.
Hisyam: I put it to you also that at all material times, your cardholder Datuk Seri did not know Major Mazlina had stamped these cheques for purposes of payment, you know or do not know?
Yeoh: I do not know.
Hisyam: At all material times, the cardholder Datuk Seri has got enough funds in his own personal account to settle the statements for the period January 2014 to July 2016 without relying on the 25 cheques, you know or do not know?
Yeoh: I do not know.
Based on Malay Mail’s calculations of the list of 25 cheques compiled by Hisyam, the total value of these 25 cheques would come up to RM697,542.06.
Earlier, deputy public prosecutor Lee Keng Fatt asked Yeoh on what would happen if AmBank customers failed to pay and settle their credit card bills by the due date stated in credit card statements.
“If you don’t pay on the due date, interest will be charged and the collection department will attempt to contact you for the payment,” Yeoh replied.
The banker added that clients who are uncontactable or who do not promise to pay the bill would have their credit card temporarily suspended.
Yeoh said he could not recall if any temporary suspensions were made on credit cards in Zahid’s case.
Yesterday Yeoh had confirmed AmBank records of the spending by Zahid and his wife via their four credit cards that had a combined spending limit of RM250,000, and had also confirmed that payments for the credit card bills were made regularly but were sometimes late and had incurred late charges.
Yeoh also confirmed that Zahid and his wife had not lodged any complaint to AmBank about any unauthorised transactions involving their credit cards.
Malay Mail’s calculations showed that the total spending on the four credit cards totalled almost RM1.48 million between December 2013 and January 2016.
Zahid is facing 47 charges in this case, namely for alleged criminal breach of trust, bribery and money-laundering.
The prosecution had previously said it will prove during this trial that RM31 million was misappropriated by Zahid from charity organisation Yayasan Akalbudi with a large part of the funds allegedly used for personal matters such as credit card bills.
The trial before High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah resumes this afternoon.