KUALA LUMPUR, March 2 — Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi today clarified that his ongoing corruption trial in the High Court in Kuala Lumpur has only been deferred by one day and that it has not been dropped.
While alleging that the charges that he is facing are politically-motivated, Zahid insisted that he will clear his name in court.
“My case today was adjourned for this day March 2, 2020 (Monday) only. Tomorrow, March 3, 2020 (Tuesday), the case will resume as usual.
“This case has not been withdrawn like the other cases before this,” he said in a statement in Malay issued with Umno’s letterhead, without naming the other cases.
“Insya-Allah, I will clear myself in court without case withdrawal. I want the court to make its decision although the charges are political prosecution and selective prosecution,” the former deputy prime minister said in the brief statement.
Earlier today, the High Court allowed Zahid’s lawyers’ request to have the ongoing trial postponed to tomorrow, instead of resuming today as previously scheduled.
The High Court had allowed the trial to be postponed for a day due to Zahid’s lawyers saying that he is required to be present for discussions and negotiations with newly-sworn in Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin on the formation of a new Cabinet.
Today was initially scheduled to be the 19th day of Zahid’s trial involving 47 charges related to alleged bribery, criminal breach of trust and money laundering, with the prosecution saying this morning that it was ready to continue trial with five prosecution witnesses ready to testify.
Other than Zahid’s case in the High Court in Kuala Lumpur today, he also has another case scheduled to start trial this October in the High Court in Shah Alam with the case involving 40 charges and 33 alternative charges over his alleged receiving of bribes in his former position as home minister.
Separately, news portal Malaysiakini reported Zahid as denying that his party Umno had made a deal for the criminal charges against the party’s leaders to be withdrawn in exchange for backing the new Muhyiddin administration.
“No, all that is not true,” he was quoted saying in a text message to Malaysiakini.
Muhyiddin is the president of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM), and his new Perikatan Nasional coalition includes Barisan Nasional component parties Umno, MCA, MIC and PAS.
Umno, which is one of the biggest party in Malaysia in terms of number of federal seats at 39 MPs, had thrown its full support behind Muhyiddin to be the country’s eighth prime minister.
Umno has many leaders that have been charged in court over alleged corruption cases, including Zahid himself, former Umno president and former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, Umno treasurer Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, Umno supreme council members Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin and Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim, and former Sabah Umno chief Datuk Seri Musa Aman.
Others who have been charged include Bung Moktar’s wife, Abdul Azeez’s brother, Najib’s wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, Najib’s stepson Riza Aziz, former Felda chairman and former Umno vice-president Tan Sri Isa Samad.
Today, PPBM supreme council member Datuk A. Kadir Jasin in a Facebook post commented on a news report in local daily The Sun where legal experts were quoted saying that it was possible that corruption cases against Najib and other Umno leaders could be dropped with their party now back in power and part of the federal government again.
Kadir said he sincerely hoped that such views are “baseless” and “mere speculation and conjecture”, adding that he hoped Muhyiddin as the son of an ulama or Islamic scholar will have “noble and truthful” intentions.
“I hope he would not betray the people who voted for him in the 2018 general election under the Pakatan Harapan banner because they abhorred the robbing kleptokratic Barisan Nasional leaders,” he said, referring to the PH coalition which PPBM was no longer part of but was the platform on which Muhyiddin was elected.
“I hope he respects the power of the Judiciary and allows the trials of Umno leaders and their co-conspirators to proceed undisturbed.
“The good people of Malaysia would be more assured if he unequivocally echoes the sentiment of his new ally, Umno Secretary General Tan Sri Annuar Musa, who was quoted as saying that “Jangan usik kes VIP di mahkamah” — (do not disturb the trials of VIPs in court),” Kadir said in the Facebook post.
National news agency Bernama reported Umno secretary-general Annuar as having said yesterday that the new government should not interfere in court matters or attempt to drop high-profile criminal cases against members of the ruling party, with the Umno leader also reported as saying that the legal system functions as usual although there has been a change in government.
“If we interfere by withdrawing cases of those charged, the people would say the government does not respect the law and the judicial body is not independent; so, don’t mar that concept,” Annuar had said, but was also reported saying that political-motivated cases without solid evidence should be stopped.
Annuar also reportedly said that it was up to Muhyiddin to decide whether to appoint those who are currently facing trials to be part of the new Cabinet, also reminding that a person is innocent until proven guilty.
Last week, anti-corruption organisation Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) had expressed fears that any formation of a new government with parties who have members facing corruption charges in court such as Umno could lead to attempts to have their cases dropped.
Lawyers had last week told Malay Mail that all high-profile criminal trials faced by individuals such as Zahid, Najib, Rosmah and Tengku Adnan could continue on even without an attorney-general in place, unless the prosecution for these cases are revoked by a new attorney-general.
Tan Sri Tommy Thomas was last week reported to have sent in his resignation letter as attorney general, but there have been no reports on whether this resignation has been accepted or made official.