Zahid’s trial: Moneychanger boss Omar Ali gave RM100,000 cash in bag to convert into cheques, says witness

Omar Ali Abdullah is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court June 18, 2020. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Omar Ali Abdullah is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court June 18, 2020. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, June 18 — Bukit Bintang-based moneychanger Omar Ali Abdullah had in 2016 handed over RM100,000 in cash in a bag to be brought to the bank for conversion into two cheques, his employee told the High Court today.

Mohamed Husein Mohammad Annifah, 30, was testifying as the 71st prosecution witness in Umno president and former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s corruption, criminal breach of trust and money laundering trial.

Mohamed Husein said he had first started working at Omar Ali’s moneychanger outlet Marhaba Enterprise Sdn Bhd in Bukit Bintang in Kuala Lumpur in 2013, and is currently a cashier there.

He then went on to say that Omar Ali had on June 7, 2016 instructed him at Marhaba Enterprise’s office to visit Hong Leong Bank’s Jalan Imbi branch to convert RM100,000 into two cheques.

“I was given cash totalling RM100,000 in a bag by Omar Ali while at the office,” Mohamed Husein said in his witness statement.

“I don’t know the source of the RM100,000 that was obtained by Omar Ali,” he said.

He added that he had then gone to the bank branch on the same day.

Mohamed Husein then verified an application form for the banker’s cheque worth RM100,000 to be issued by Hong Leong Bank, confirming that he had written down details such as his name, his identity card number and his phone number, and followed Omar Ali’s instructions by writing down Lewis & Co as the recipient.

As for the purpose of the banker’s cheque that was listed as “lawyers’ fee” in the bank form, Mohamed Husein said he did not write this down, but said it was filled in by bank officers and did not know why this was written down.

Asked by Zahid’s lawyer Datuk Ahmad Zaidi Zainal, if he knew that Lewis & Co is a law firm or acts as a trustee for Yayasan Akalbudi, Mohamed Husein said he did not know.

After filling up the form, Mohamed Husein said he had then brought the RM100,000 in cash to a bank counter and paid RM11.96 for fees, and that the bank then handed him two banker’s cheques for RM50,000 each as instructed by Omar Ali.

Mohamed Husein said he had then returned to the office with the two cheques which he handed over to Omar Ali, and proceeded to carry out his work as usual.

When Omar Ali was brought briefly into the courtroom for identification purposes, Mohamed Husein confirmed that he is his employer.

Earlier this week, Hong Leong Bank’s Jalan Sultan Ismail branch official Wong Shiau Ping had verified that Mohamed Hussein had transferred money via two banker’s cheques both dated June 7, 2016 and for RM50,000 each to Lewis & Co for the written purpose of “lawyers’ fees”.

Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court June 18, 2020. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court June 18, 2020. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Omar Ali has emerged as an intriguing and key figure during the course of Zahid’s trial over the past few days.

Among other things, several witnesses in Zahid’s trial had earlier this week told the court that they had placed their trust in Omar Ali when signing on cheques worth a combined RM1.3 million that had the recipient’s name left blank as instructed by him. Those blank cheques issued in 2016 eventually ended up being paid to law firm Lewis & Co.

Yesterday, other witnesses told the court that they had complied with Omar Ali’s instructions to pay out cheques totalling RM1.1 million to Lewis & Co in 2016 despite having no business dealings with the latter, and despite their dealings being with Omar Ali.

Yesterday, Omar Ali’s own wife testified that she had trustingly signed off on a blank cheque book for her company without any amount stated and had left it to him to manage the funds coming in to the company, also confirming that he had used her company’s account to pay out a total of nearly RM4.6 million worth of 16 cheques in 2016 using funds of an unknown source to Lewis & Co.

In this trial where Zahid is facing 47 charges, he is accused of having committed money-laundering by having allegedly ordered an individual known as Omar Ali Abdullah to launder RM6,885,300.20 (or more than RM6.885 million) in cash into 30 cheques that were given to law firm Lewis & Co to buy fixed deposits in Maybank between March 29 to July 15, 2016.

This week, 10 bankers from five different banks had confirmed in court that over RM25.9 million funds were transferred via 41 cheques to Lewis & Co during the 2016-2018 period, while three other bankers’ court testimony showed that a separate sum totalling RM1,033,444.20 (or more than RM1 million) were transferred via six cheques to Lewis & Co.

The trial before High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah resumes on July 3.

The court granted Zahid’s request for the previously scheduled trial date of July 13 to be vacated due to the requirement for him to be present on that day in Parliament as the Bagan Datuk MP, with Zahid also standing up to briefly address the court to explain that this was due to MPs being expected to debate on the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s speech on July 13. (The last time that the Dewan Rakyat had convened was on May 18 where only the Agong’s speech was read out in that sitting, with the Dewan Rakyat expected to convene next on July 13.)

The trial is also expected to proceed on the scheduled dates of July 14, July 27 to 30.

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