KUALA LUMPUR, March 5 — The High Court today heard how over RM17.9 million in funds flowed from the bank account of Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s charitable foundation Yayasan Akalbudi to a deal to buy shares in a hotel management company as well as to be placed as fixed deposits.
The flow of the RM17.9 million and how it all ended up as fixed deposits were laid out to the court in a flowchart prepared by Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) investigator Muhammad Fazli Zulkifli, based on his 2018 investigations into alleged money-laundering offences by Zahid.
Fazli was testifying as the 93rd prosecution witness in the Umno president’s trial, where he faces 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.
In explaining the flowchart which was presented to the High Court, Fazli said his investigation showed that RM17,953,185.21 or RM17.9 million was transferred from Yayasan Akalbudi’s Affin Bank account to law firm Lewis & Co’s Maybank account on June 23, 2016 through a cheque.
Of the RM17.9 million that was in Lewis & Co’s account by June 2016, about half or RM9,350,265.21 (RM9.3 million) was placed as fixed deposits on July 13, 2016. Similarly, the remaining half or RM8,602,920 (RM8.6 million) was also placed into fixed deposits on July 21, 2016 and May 11, 2017.
But before the RM8.6 million figure became fixed deposits, this amount was transferred from the law firm to a hotel management company called Ri-Yaz Assets Sdn Bhd as “deposit” for a share purchase deal that was later aborted.
The same funds totalling RM8.6 million were later transferred back to the law firm and only then placed into fixed deposits in July 2016 and May 2017.
About the RM8.6m and Ri-Yaz and Zahid’s daughter
Elaborating on the flow of money regarding the RM8.6 million sum, Fazli said that this was transferred from Lewis & Co’s Maybank account through a June 30, 2016 cheque for RM8,602,920 to Ri-Yaz Assets, as “deposit” for Zahid’s daughter Datuk Nurulhidayah’s planned purchase of 60 per cent of the company’s shares owned by Tan Sri Rashid Abdul Manaf.
Fazli said this was as a result of a 2016 deal where Rashid had agreed to sell his 60 per cent stake in Ri-Yaz Assets to Nurulhidayah, as well as following negotiations involving Zahid, Nurulhidayah, Ri-Yaz Assets’ director Datuk Mohammad Shaheen Shah Mohd Sidek, Exim Bank’s chairman Datuk Mat Noor Nawi and Exim Bank’s CEO Norzilah Mohamad.
At the time of the share purchase deal, Ri-Yaz Assets had outstanding debts with Exim Bank over a US$24.8 million loan it had taken to buy a hotel in Bali, Indonesia.
Based on Fazli’s investigations, Ri-Yaz Assets then used most of the RM8.6 million sum to pay its outstanding debt of RM8,348,040.90 (RM8.3 million) with Exim Bank over the Bali hotel purchase.
Of the RM8.6 million sum, Ri-Yaz Assets however returned the unused remaining RM254,879.10 through a CIMB cheque dated July 15, 2016 to Lewis & Co. This surplus sum of over RM250,000 was due to the US dollar exchange rate with the Malaysian ringgit at that time.
This RM254,879.10 sum returned by Ri-Yaz Assets to Lewis & Co was then combined with 24 cheques originating from other companies and individuals to become a bigger pool of funds totalling RM5,460,361.14 (RM5.46 million) that was then placed as fixed deposit on July 21, 2016.
Fazli’s investigations found that the Companies Commission of Malaysia’s records had stated Nurulhidayah was appointed as a director of Ri-Yaz Assets on January 27, 2017, and her resignation took effect from January 31, 2017.
Eventually, the share purchase deal did not go through, with Nurulhidayah and Zahid then asking for Ri-Yaz Assets to return the RM8.3 million figure, Fazli said.
Fazli said Nurulhidayah had told Ri-Yaz Assets’ Shaheen that this was because the RM8.3 million sum belonged to a foundation.
Ri-Yaz Assets returned the RM8.3 million sum (RM8,348,040.90) through a CIMB cheque dated May 2, 2017 to Lewis & Co, which the law firm then placed as fixed deposits on May 11, 2017.
Asked to refer to the share sale and purchase agreement dated July 1, 2016 for the sale of Rashid’s 60 per cent shares in Ri-Yaz Assets to Nurulhidayah, Fazli confirmed to deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Sazilee Abdul Khairi that the written contract did not state Nurulhidayah as a “representative or proxy” of any foundations.
Having previously interviewed Nurulhidayah as a witness for Zahid’s case, Fazli said she was working as marketing director for government-owned firm Syarikat Perumahan Negara Berhad at the time of the signing of the share sale and purchase agreement.
Asked by Sazilee, Fazli confirmed that Nurulhidayah has no positions in both Zahid’s Yayasan Akalbudi and the Yayasan Al-Falah foundation linked to Zahid’s family.
Previously, on November 18, 2019, when the trial began, the prosecution had in its opening statement said it will prove the money-laundering charges against Zahid by showing that had received cheques worth millions of ringgit that allegedly originated from unlawful activity and that these funds were later passed to Lewis & Co, with such funds placed as fixed deposits, among other things.
This trial where Zahid’s 47 charges is being heard before High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah will resume next Monday (March 8), with Zahid’s lawyers expected to cross-examine Fazli.