Zahid trial: Witness breaks down, insists RM6m was donation and not bribe

Datuk Abu Hanifah Noordin is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court Complex February 13, 2020. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Datuk Abu Hanifah Noordin is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court Complex February 13, 2020. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 13 — Former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s corruption and bribery trial had to stop briefly today after a witness was overcome with emotion midway through his testimony.

The prosecution’s 32nd witness, Datuk Abu Hanifah Noordin, was under cross examination by Zahid’s lawyer Datuk Ahmad Zaidi Zainal.

He was telling the court about the challenges he faced when he held senior positions of two separate entities when he appeared to choke and struggle to finish his sentences.

When the 68-year-old witness struggled to regain his composure, Ahmad Zaidi asked if he could continue or needed a break, before requesting a break from High Court Judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah.

“Are you okay, Datuk? Are you able to continue, or you need a break? Your honour could we stand down for 10 minutes to allow the witness to compose himself,” said Ahmad Zaidi.

The judge allowed this.

Earlier, Abu Hanifah spoke of his tenure as chief executive of Datasonic Group Berhad (DSG), and director of Datasonic Technologies Sdn Bhd (DTSB).

He was explaining the backlash he received from competitors for being a recipient of government contracts, before he became emotional.

Mention of both DSG and DTSB appeared in Zahid’s trial after he was charged with taking a RM6 million bribe via two cheques from DSG director Chew Ben Ben.

Abu Hanifah told the court that Chew was also his personal financial advisor.

Earlier during examination-in-chief, Abu Hanifah confirmed to deputy public prosecutor Gan Peng Kun that it was his signature on the two cheques, one for RM1 million and another worth RM5 million both issued on April 25, 2017.

However, he said Chew told him the cheques were for a political donation to Barisan Nasional and Umno.

“I am grateful because the government has assisted SKSB up to the point DSG was listed on the Bursa exchange, that is why I gave a contribution to Barisan Nasional and Umno.

“Both cheques were not meant to be bribes to Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi because the Home Ministry had awarded a project to DTSB and DSG,” he said when reading his witness statement.

Abu Hanifah also explained the cheques were issued from the account of Sarana Kencara Sdn Bhd (SKSB), a company he described as a family business where he and his wife sit as the company’s directors.

Abu Hanifah said Chew advised him not to include the recipient’s name on the cheques, which he left blank.

According to evidence tendered in court, the cheques were later issued to a law firm, Lewis & Co, which the prosecution alleged to be a proxy Zahid used to launder funds from his foundation Yayasan Akalbudi.

“It was until the investigations by the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission that I found out the RM1 million and RM5 million was paid to Lewis & Co and not to Umno or Barisan Nasional,” he said.

In Zahid's trial where he is facing 47 charges, he had been accused of having received two cheques issued by SKSB totalling RM6 million from DSG director Chew, as a reward for causing as the home minister then the Home Ministry's award through direct negotiations of a five-year contract for the supply of microchips for Malaysian passports to DTSB.

Separately, former Home Ministry procurement division secretary Datuk Abd Aziz Md Nor testified today that the contract was worth RM318.75 million.

The trial before Sequerah continues tomorrow.

* A previous version of this story contained errors which have since been corrected.

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