KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 7 — Former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi cannot be held legally responsible for the use of RM1.3 million of charitable foundation Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds to pay for the credit card bills of his and his wife between 2014 and 2016, his lawyer argued in court today.

Ahmad Zahid’s lawyer Hamidi Mohd Noh argued that that it was his client’s former executive secretary Major Mazlina Mazlan @ Ramly who should be blamed for the use of Yayasan Akalbudi’s cheques for the credit card payments.

The defence lawyer insisted that Mazlina had stamped Ahmad Zahid’s signature — as the foundation’s trustee and sole signatory — onto the cheques without his approval or knowledge.

Today was the second day of oral submissions by Ahmad Zahid’s lawyers in the High Court at the close of the prosecution’s case, where they presented arguments on why the prosecution had allegedly not proven a prima facie case or sufficient case for Ahmad Zahid to defend himself against.

In this trial, Ahmad Zahid — who is a former home minister and 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. 

Hamidi’s argument today focused on why Ahmad Zahid should not be prosecuted for the 12 criminal breach of trust charges, which involved 52 Yayasan Akalbudi cheques, including 34 with Ahmad Zahid’s signature stamped on it. Of these, 10 carried Ahmad Zahid’s pre-signed signature while 44 of the 52 cheques were for credit card payments.

Hamidi said that Mazlina previously testified in court that she had custody of the cheque books for both Yayasan Akalbudi’s account and Ahmad Zahid’s personal account while working as his executive secretary, and was the holder of the key to the drawer that holds the cheque books.

Mazlina was the 90th prosecution witness in Ahmad Zahid’s trial.

“She also agreed that there is no other person that has access to the drawers where she kept the cheques. She also agreed that the content of the drawer is under her control and possession. In that drawer, she agreed there’s two cheque books, one — personal cheques, second — Yayasan Akalbudi cheques.

“We submit that the accused himself does not have access or physical access to the cheques under the drawer which is held by Mazlina,” he said, adding that this meant Mazlina had “control, custody, possession and access” to the cheques.

Responsibility for stamped signatures

Hamidi zoomed in to just six out of the 12 CBT charges that Ahmad Zahid is facing and which involves 44 cheques for Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds to be used to pay credit card bills, saying three of these CBT charges cannot be sustained or must “fall” as they involved cheques that did not carry Ahmad Zahid’s handwritten signature but had his stamped signature.

Out of the 44 cheques, Hamidi highlighted that there was a “glaringly absurd number” of 32 Yayasan Akalbudi cheques with Ahmad Zahid’s stamped signature being used for credit card bills, claiming that the stamped nature of the signature alone would mean Ahmad Zahid cannot be criminally liable.

“It is very dangerous to rely on stamped cheques to attach any criminal liability, because of the nature of stamped cheques. It was stamped, it was not signed.

“Why it’s very dangerous to attach criminal liability on any stamped cheques? Number one, the accused did not stamp signatures on the cheque,” he said.He argued that there was instead “unequivocal” evidence that Mazlina was the one who had stamped Ahmad Zahid’s signature on to the cheques.

“The culpability of the stamped cheques must be attached to the person who has control and custody over the cheques, who is Major Mazlina,” he said.

Hamidi disputed Mazlina’s previous evidence that Ahmad Zahid had given her consent to stamp signatures on the cheques, asserting that Mazlina had “assumed” Ahmad Zahid’s approval for the first stamping of his signature on the cheques to be a “blanket approval” for the same stamping for future cheques.

Hamidi said Mazlina had said it was her “assumption” that Ahmad Zahid had given such a blanket approval, with the judge then suggesting that Mazlina had came to this conclusion based on her course of conduct and dealings with Ahmad Zahid and that she had testified that Ahmad Zahid knew about this.

Hamidi however said the stamping of Ahmad Zahid’s signature to the cheques was not an “instruction” given to her, but that she had made a “request” to use the stamped signature and that Ahmad Zahid had given permission and that Mazlina had then assumed it to be a “blanket approval”.

High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah cut in and asked: “How about spot checks she said the accused conducted twice a year and the fact that the accused never complained about her using the stamped signature?”

To this, Hamidi said that Ahmad Zahid had no knowledge of his signature being stamped on to the cheques. 

“The accused never complained because the accused never knew,” he added.

Hamidi also highlighted that Mazlina had previously admitted during cross-examination that she had not shown all the credit card statements and cheques to Ahmad Zahid before the cheques were issued.

For the third and final point when he said it would be “impossible” for Ahmad Zahid to have instructed Mazlina to use his stamped signature, Hamidi said this was because the prosecution did not produce any authorisation letter from Yayasan Akalbudi that would have authorised the bank to clear cheques with stamped signatures instead of handwritten signatures.

“Therefore, Yang Arif, as a whole, it cannot be said that the prosecution has proven its case,” he said, arguing that the three charges — which each contained a mix of signed and stamped signature cheques — must all “fall”. “Every time a stamped cheque occurs, these charges must fall”.

Ahmad Zahid’s trial resumes tomorrow morning, with Hamidi expected to continue presenting the defence’s oral submissions.