RM2m cheque via law firm was ‘sincere donation’ for Zahid’s tahfiz school, businessman claims in Umno leader’s trial

Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (second from left) is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court June 16, 2020. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (second from left) is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court June 16, 2020. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

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KUALA LUMPUR, June 16 — A businessman today claimed to have given a personal cheque of RM2 million to an Islamic religious school allegedly owned by his “good friend” Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as a “sincere donation”.

Mubarak Hussain Akhtar Husin, 44, also told the High Court that the cheque was made out to a law firm on the Umno leader’s instructions.

He was testifying as the 62nd prosecution witness today in the corruption trial of Zahid, a former home minister and former deputy prime minister.

Mubarak Hussain confirmed issuing and signing off on a personal cheque from his Maybank account dated November 25, 2016 for the sum of RM2 million to be made payable to Lewis & Co. He said the cheque cashed in by his employees into Lewis & Co’s Maybank account.

“The purpose of this cheque received by Lewis & Co is as a sincere donation for Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s tahfiz school. I only gave this donation to the tahfiz school for the purpose of covering the tahfiz school’s monthly costs.

“I obtained the total sum of RM2 million from the proceeds of my business,” he testified.

When asked by deputy public prosecutor Harris Ong Mohd Jeffrey Ong, Mubarak Hussain said it was Zahid who had instructed him to write Lewis & Co as the RM2 million cheque’s recipient and that it was also Zahid who had given him Lewis & Co’s Clients’ Account number to be penned in.

“I wanted to do this charity, this sincere donation, he instructed me to make payment to Lewis & Co,” he said.

Mubarak Hussain affirmed that he had not given out any other donation beside this RM2 million. He noted the use of the personal cheque was because it was his personal contribution, adding that he had personally visited the tahfiz school in Masjid Tanah, Melaka on several occasions and that the school could accommodate around 200 students.

As for Zahid’s relationship to the school, Mubarak Hussain told the court it was owned by Zahid.

He said the only proof he had of the RM2 million donation he made purportedly for the tahfiz school is only through the cheque.

But when Harris pointed out that he would no longer have proof once the cheque is handed over to Zahid, Mubarak Hussain replied: “I am very confident that this money that I donate is fully used for the tahfiz school.”

However, Mubarak Hussain said he did not receive any tax exemption for this 2016 donation of RM2 million, adding that it did not occur to him then to obtain a tax exemption for the donation.

Cross-examined by Zahid’s lawyer Hamidi Mohd Noh, Mubarak Hussain affirmed that the tahfiz school referred to was called Sekolah Menengah Imtiaz Ulul Albab Melaka.

Earlier, Mubarak Hussain told deputy public prosecutor Harris that he was “good friends” with Zahid. He and his younger brother first met Zahid in 2008 at an event in Kampung Baru and their friendship has lasted since then.

He also said that their friendship was not related to his company’s contract with the Home Ministry. Zahid was home minister from 2013 to 2018.

Among other things, Mubarak Hussain confirmed in court today that in 2002, he bought over Seri Jaya Perkasa Sdn Bhd due to the company’s existing RM20.5 million two-year contract with the Home Ministry to send illegal immigrants to their country of origin, and with the contract being a renewable contract if agreed to and was still required by the Home Ministry.

Mubarak Hussain said his company’s contract lasted until October 2017, when it expired and was not renewed despite subsequent applications for an extension after the expiry.

Asked by another defence lawyer Datuk Ahmad Zaidi Zainal, Mubarak Hussain agreed that Zahid had not asked him to make the RM2 million donation, reiterating that it was a sincere donation.

Mubarak Hussain claimed to have knowledge of several matters mentioned by Zaidi, including Zahid and Yayasan Akalbudi purportedly fully funding the tahfiz school’s expenses, and that the school was not receiving any financial support from any government agency at that time in 2016.

Mubarak Hussain also agreed with Zaidi that the RM2 million donation had nothing to do with the Home Ministry project that the company was handling.

Mubarak Hussain agreed with the suggestion that Lewis & Co is a trustee for the charity as its name was given to him by Zahid when he wanted to donate, but also acknowledged that his answer of Lewis & Co’s alleged status as trustee was not based on any documents.

In this trial, Zahid is facing 47 charges, namely 12 counts of criminal breach of trust in relation to Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds, 27 counts of money-laundering, and eight counts of bribery charges.

As part of the money laundering charges, Zahid is accused of having used illegal funds for fixed deposits via Lewis & Co’s Maybank account.

The trial before High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah resumes tomorrow.

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