KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 20 — A businessman today told the High Court that he personally handed over three cheques totalling RM2 million on each of his three visits in 2017 and 2018 to then home minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
Businessman Azlan Shah Jeffril, 49, also confirmed that these payments to Zahid were marked for purposes such as charity and political funds.
The visa processing project
Testifying as the 38th prosecution witness against Zahid in the former deputy prime minister’s corruption and bribery trial, Azlan said his company Profound Radiance Sdn Bhd carried out visa processing work abroad for foreign workers as appointed by the Home Ministry.
Azlan, who is a director of Profound Radiance, said he met Zahid for the first time at luxury hotel The Ritz-Carlton Jakarta in the Indonesian capital on September 19, 2015, where the latter’s son’s wedding was being held.
Despite not being invited to the wedding, Azlan said he had gone there with the hope of meeting Zahid, adding that he had met Zahid alone in a suite at the hotel where he sought to have the home minister consider letting Profound Radiance start its one-stop centre (OSC) operations in Bangladesh.
“I did not bring any documents when meeting with Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid. I myself asked Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi about the OSC Bangladesh. Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid informed he would try to consider,” he told the High Court.
After this meeting, however, Azlan’s company received a letter from the Home Ministry dated November 11, 2015 notifying it of the cancellation of the ministry’s prior permission for the company to carry out OSC services to process Malaysian visas in Bangladesh.
Earlier today, another witness, former Home Ministry immigration division secretary Datuk Shahril Ismail had told the court that the Home Ministry had selected Profound Radiance to operate the OSC in Bangladesh from February 2, 2014, but that Zahid had agreed with ministry officials’ recommendations to cancel this approval due to the company’s failure to carry out any operations even by the end of 2015 amid internal conflicts in the company.
After a series of events that included Azlan’s company Profound Radiance writing appeal letters to then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Zahid in late 2015 and early 2016, the company was given another chance to start OSC operations for visa processing in Nepal and Pakistan instead.
The Home Ministry appointed Profound Radiance to operate the two separate OSC in Nepal and Pakistan from July 1, 2016, with the ministry and company signing two separate contracts both dated June 16, 2017 to operate the two centres in the two countries.
The three cheques in conjunction with three visits
When speaking of the three consecutive visits where he gave Zahid cheques, Azlan described the preparations that he had made ahead of the meetings.
Azlan said he had met Zahid at the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office at the Prime Minister’s Department in Putrajaya on August 2, 2017, adding that he had arranged for this meeting by contacting the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office to set an appointment.
“I had also asked the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office (who it is I don’t remember as it was via telephone) whose name I should write on the cheque if I wish to make a donation,” he said, adding that he had then received a call from the office several hours later to inform him that he could make out the cheque to the law firm Lewis & Co.
Ahead of this August 2, 2017 meeting, Azlan said he had on July 31 signed a cheque using Profound Radiance’s Maybank account to Lewis & Co for the sum of RM300,000, with his staff Mohd Kasturi Rasul writing the recipient name “Lewis & Co” on his instruction.
Azlan said he had met Zahid alone on August 2 where he told the minister about the company’s visa processing work in Nepal and Pakistan after being appointed by the ministry.
“Then I left an envelope containing the RM300,000 cheque and handed over personally by me. Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid instructed me to leave the envelope on his desk and I left the envelope before leaving his office,” he said.
He confirmed the cheque butt for this cheque carried the words “consultant fee” that were crossed out and replaced with the word “charity” and attributed this to a possible error by Mohd Kasturi, explaining that the term “charity” was due to the donation being intended for welfare.
Azlan said he had prepared a second cheque issued by Profound Radiance on January 3, 2018 just a day before meeting Zahid briefly at a Home Ministry-organised event at the Home Ministry’s office in Putrajaya, adding that he had himself wrote Lewis & Co as the recipient of the RM1 million cheque that he placed in an envelope.
He said he had gone to the event with the intention of delivering Profound Radiance’s contribution or donation to Zahid.
“I did not meet Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid during that event, instead, I handed the envelope to him when Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid was walking to his car after the event ended. I greeted him and gave the envelope while greeting him,” he said, adding that Zahid left without saying anything.
For the second cheque’s cheque butt, Azlan confirmed that he had written “Political fund to TPM”, explaining that it was a “Political donation to help the government of the day that at that time was nearing election season”.
As for the third cheque, also issued from Profound Radiance’s Maybank account, Azlan said he had on February 9, 2018 prepared the RM700,000 cheque to Lewis & Co with Mohd Kasturi writing the recipient’s name and that he had also placed it in an envelope. He confirmed Mohd Kasturi had written “charity” on the cheque butt.
Azlan said he had on his own initiative went to meet Zahid at the Deputy Prime Minister’s official residence at Seri Satria, Putrajaya for the purpose of delivering the RM700,000 cheque, adding that the duo had spoken about current politics due to the impending elections at the time.
“Then before I left, I handed over the envelope containing the RM700,000 cheque to Lewis & Co,” he said.
“I managed to ask Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid to issue a tax exemption receipt to me. Then Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid said the receipt issuance would be handled. After that, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid only thanked me for the donation,” he added.
Azlan said Zahid had never asked him for any donations and that the three cheques were donations on behalf of Profound Radiance, confirming that all three cheques had been cashed.
“I handed the donations to Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid as he was at that time the home minister that was also the TPM (Deputy Prime Minister) responsible for finding funds for the upcoming general elections. Besides that, Profound Radiance Sdn Bhd also carried out OSC under the Home Ministry,” he said, referring to the 14th general election that was eventually held on May 9, 2018.
“I did not hand over the donations to certain political parties as I was of the view that as long as it is not on the name of any individuals, it is to help the party,” he testified, after having said that he had considered Lewis & Co to be a trustee lawyer as he understood political parties, political organisations and foundations would have trustee lawyers.