Ex-secretary says Zahid approved use of charity’s cheques to pay credit cards, but told to stop after MACC probe

Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court August 25, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court August 25, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 25 — Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had permitted the use of cheques from charitable organisation Yayasan Akalbudi to pay for his personal credit card bills and had also allowed the stamping of his signatures on the cheques, his former executive secretary told the court today.

Testifying as the 90th prosecution witness, Major Mazlina Mazlan @ Ramly today testified in her former boss Zahid’s trial over alleged criminal breach of trust, corruption and money laundering.

Mazlina said that she recalled Zahid telling her in 2016 in the Home Ministry’s office to stop using cheques from Yayasan Akalbudi’s account to pay for his personal credit card bills, as the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) was investigating the matter.

“The last time I used Yayasan Akalbudi’s cheques to pay credit cards was in early 2016. As far as I remember, at that time, Datuk Seri ordered me not to use Yayasan Akalbudi cheques anymore to pay for credit cards as it was said that the MACC has started conducting investigations.

“I did not ask further. I was asked to pay for the credit cards using cash,” she said in her witness statement today, later explaining that she had received the cash from Zahid to pay for subsequent credit card statements.

Evidence brought in court had previously shown that Zahid is a trustee of Yayasan Akalbudi.

The use of Yayasan Akalbudi’s cheques

Mazlina said she had worked as Zahid’s executive secretary for around seven years from December 9, 2011 to May 2018, covering his stints as defence minister, home minister and deputy prime minister.

When she first took up the post in December 2011, Mazlina said her predecessor Datuk Rosiah Osman had informed her that her tasks included handling Zahid’s personal bills.

Mazlina said Rosiah had handed her Yayasan Akalbudi’s file, Yayasan Akalbudi’s cheque book under Affin Bank, Yayasan Akalbudi’s official stamp, a stamp with Zahid’s signature, as well as a Maybank cheque book under Zahid’s name, with Mazlina further noting that she then kept the cheque books received in a locked drawer.

Mazlina said she had used Yayasan Akalbudi’s cheques with Zahid’s approval for various purposes, namely paying his personal credit card bills, vehicle insurance and road tax for Zahid’s vehicles, a payment to the Persatuan Bolasepak PDRM and two companies (Armada Holdings Sdn Bhd, as well as TS Consultancy & Resources).

Credit card payments

Mazlina said Zahid had four credit cards with AmIslamic Bank with two supplementary cards under his wife’s name, as well as two credit cards with Maybank and one American Express credit card under his own name.

“Throughout the time I worked with Datuk Seri, I prepared cheques to pay his personal credit card bills using Yayasan Akalbudi’s cheques. I did so with Datuk Seri’s permission,” she said, further noting that all such cheques that she had prepared for the monthly credit card payments were not pre-signed by Zahid.

Mazlina said that she would present the Yayasan Akalbudi cheques along with the monthly credit card statements to Zahid each time when seeking for his signature on the cheques, noting Zahid’s meticulous scrutiny of the cheques before affixing his signature with his own pen — usually in black ink — while she remained present.

“Each time I presented Yayasan Akalbudi’s cheques that I have filled in for the payment of the credit card bills, Datuk Seri never questioned me why I used Yayasan cheques. Datuk Seri also never questioned me on why I did not use his personal cheques, that is the Maybank account,” she testified today.

Major Mazlina Mazlan@Ramly (left) is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court August 25, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Major Mazlina [email protected] (left) is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court August 25, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

The use of Zahid’s stamped signature

Mazlina said she started using a “chop” or stamping Zahid’s signature in Yayasan Akalbudi’s cheques around 2014 but only for his personal credit card bills and when he was not present in the office, saying however that she had started doing so only after seeking Zahid’s permission.

“As far as I remember, the first time I used the signature stamp for cheques, I had asked Datuk Seri first whether I can use the signature stamp for cheques,” she said, adding that this was when she was working at the home minister’s office and that she had asked for such permission to expedite the payment of credit card bills as Zahid was always busy.

Mazlina noted Zahid’s busier schedule as home minister and deputy prime minister compared to his time as defence minister and with him frequently out of the area and also abroad, saying it was hard for her to meet him to seek his instructions.

Mazlina also said she frequently received the monthly credit card statements after the deadline to pay as the bills were not sent directly to her desk, noting that she was worried that late payment would cause the use of Zahid and his wife’s credit cards to be blocked and cause inconvenience to them, especially when they were abroad.

“So to avoid any inconvenience to Datuk Seri or Datin Seri, I asked for Datuk Seri’s permission to use his signature chop. Datuk Seri agreed and said okay,” she said.

As for how frequent Zahid’s overseas trips were during his time as home minister and deputy prime minister, Mazlina said it was around once a month with such trips lasting around five to seven days each, while such official trips would also see Zahid’s wife accompanying him. Mazlina confirmed that she had at times went together with the entourage.

Stating that she did not know who made the stamp for Zahid’s signature as it had existed since she took over as his executive secretary in 2011, Mazlina said she had also used this stamp for certificates of appreciation and invitation cards, adding: “I have never used Datuk Seri’s signature stamp for my personal interests.”

Mazlina said she no longer kept Zahid’s signature stamp or Yayasan Akalbudi cheque books, adding that she was uncertain what happened to these items as the situation was “chaotic” when she and the other staff were tasked with cleaning Zahid’s office during the change of government after the 14th general election in 2018.

For the Yayasan Akalbudi cheques to pay for the credit card bills, Mazlina said she usually deposited these cheques herself at the nearest ATM machine but sometimes asked for the office assistant’s help if pressed for time.

Mazlina confirmed today that she had never received any queries from banks over the use of Zahid’s stamped signature for cheques.

Datuk Zul Hisham Zainal is seen at the Kuala Lumpur High Court December 11, 2019. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Datuk Zul Hisham Zainal is seen at the Kuala Lumpur High Court December 11, 2019. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

Zahid’s son-in-law also asked for cheques

Other than Zahid, Mazlina said Zahid’s son-in-law Datuk Zul Hisham Zainal was the only other individual who had ever gave her instructions on the use of Yayasan Akalbudi’s cheques, adding that she recalled him giving such instructions less than three times.

Mazlina said Zul Hisham would first inform Zahid first before notifying her via Whatsapp or a phone call to prepare the requested cheque, confirming to deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Sazilee Abdul Khairi that Zahid had not disagreed with the instructions given by Zul Hisham.

Mazlina confirmed a RM1.3 million cheque from Yayasan Akalbudi to Royal Malaysian Police Football Association which she said she had prepared upon Zul Hisham’s instructions via Whatsapp, noting that she had notified Zahid of Zul Hisham’s message and that Zahid had signed the cheque without question. She said she then passed the signed cheque to Zahid’s driver to be given to Zul Hisham.

Zul Hisham had last December confirmed in court that he had received a RM1.3 million cheque from Yayasan Akalbudi which he had handed over to the police’s football association, after having asked for such a sum from Zahid to aid the association.

Asked by deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Sazilee if Zahid’s wife had ever instructed her to issue Yayasan Akalbudi’s cheques to make any payments, Mazlina replied in the negative.

Other than that, Mazlina said she had prepared three Yayasan Akalbudi cheques (RM24,980.55 in January 2015, RM43,645 in April 2015, RM38,884 in September 2015) that were signed by Zahid in her presence to be given to motor insurance agent Ahmad Izhan to purchase vehicle insurance and pay for road taxes.

“Datuk Seri never at any time questioned why I used Yayasan Akalbudi’s cheques. He signed the cheques without question. As usual, Datuk Seri will check the cheques’ details before putting down his signature.

“If he disallows, I would certainly not use Yayasan’s cheques. I myself did not dare to and it never crossed my mind to ask Datuk Seri why Yayasan cheques were used,” she said of the three Yayasan Akalbudi cheques for road tax and vehicle insurance.

Allianz General Insurance agent Ahmad Izhan Abd Rashid had previously testified that the road tax and insurance for 20 vehicles belonging to former Deputy Prime Minister Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi amounting to RM107,509.55 was paid using funds from three cheques issued by Yayasan Akalbudi.

Datuk Seri Wan Ahmad Wan Omar is seen at the Kuala Lumpur High Court December 11, 2019. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Datuk Seri Wan Ahmad Wan Omar is seen at the Kuala Lumpur High Court December 11, 2019. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

Mazlina said she had also prepared a Yayasan Akalbudi cheque dated November 25, 2016 for RM260,000 to TS Consultancy & Resources on Zahid’s instructions which he had personally signed, and that she then delivered it to a Datuk Seri Wan Ahmad on Zahid’s instructions.

Mazlina confirmed that another Yayasan Akalbudi cheque dated August 20, 2015 was issued for RM100,000 to TS Consultancy & Resources and verified Zahid’s signature on the cheque, saying however that she did not prepare this cheque and that she had handed a blank Yayasan Akalbudi cheque on one occasion to Zahid on his instruction while he was together with Wan Ahmad.

Election Commission (EC) former deputy chairman Datuk Seri Wan Ahmad Wan Omar had previously testified in Zahid’s trial about the two cheques totalling RM360,000 from Yayasan Akalbudi, which he had said were used to help the then Barisan Nasional administration sign up new voters.

Having testified of Zahid’s careful checks of details in cheques or letters before signing off, Mazlina today also confirmed to Ahmad Sazilee that Zahid did complain to her over mistakes on cheques such as errors in spelling of names or amount in cheques, but said there was no issue of cheques being wrongly issued from the wrong accounts.

Mazlina today spent some time in court verifying various Yayasan Akalbudi cheques, also verifying a cheque that had the wrong month stated and one that was rejected by the bank as it did not carry a signature.

Throughout her tenure as Zahid’s executive secretary, Mazlina said she had received cheques both from individuals known and unknown for Yayasan Akalbudi without being told of the purpose for such cheques and with such cheques usually banked in by Zahid’s driver, further confirming that Zahid himself had also given cheques to be deposited into Yayasan Akalbudi’s  account.

The RM17.9m transferred out

Mazlina also testified that Zahid had instructed her to prepare a letter for Yayasan Akalbudi in June 2016 to instruct Affin Bank to withdraw all the foundation’s RM17.9 million to be transferred to law firm Lewis & Co via a banker’s cheque, but said Zahid did not tell her why this transaction was carried out.

Having collected the bankers’ cheque from Affin Bank and handed it to Zahid at his office, Mazlina confirmed this was the first time that she had made any transactions involving Lewis & Co and that she had never dealt with the entity subsequently, further confirming she had not dealt with a Muralidharan from Lewis & Co on behalf of Zahid.

Zahid’s trial before High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah was expected to resume this afternoon.

But trial was adjourned to tomorrow afternoon as Zahid’s lawyers needed time to seek further instructions from their client over certain matters that arose during Mazlina’s questioning today and as Zahid’s main defence lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik has to be at the Federal Court tomorrow for other cases.

In this trial, Zahid ― who is also currently the Umno president ― is facing 47 charges, namely 12 counts of criminal breach of trust in relation to charitable foundation Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds, 27 counts of money-laundering, and eight counts of bribery charges.

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