KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 8 — Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s legal team was not trying to use his former secretary as a “scapegoat” for his use of charity Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds for his and his wife’s credit card bills, his lawyers said in court today.

However, Ahmad Zahid’s lawyer Hamidi Mohd Noh continued to claim that this former executive secretary, Major Mazlina Mazlan @ Ramly, was at fault due to her alleged incompetence and negligence.

Hamidi claimed that it was Mazlina who made the “mistake” of using Yayasan Akalbudi cheques instead of Ahmad Zahid’s personal cheque book for the credit card payments.

Hamidi was arguing why Ahmad Zahid should be acquitted and discharged from the criminal breach of trust charges in relation to the use of Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds, which were allegedly not used in line with the organisation’s stated objectives of helping the poor.

Hamidi was responding to an excerpt from the prosecution’s written submissions at the close of the prosecution’s case, with this excerpt being: “The defence would have us believe that the accused was totally oblivious about the use of the Akalbudi cheques, and in turn, pointed the finger of blame at the secretary. In fact, the prosecution would go as far as to submit that the accused was determined to make Major Mazlina a scapegoat for his own mess.”

In response, Hamidi told the High Court that Ahmad Zahid’s lawyers had not sought to make Mazlina the “scapegoat”, and said that they had only known of her use of a stamp with Ahmad Zahid’s signature for Yayasan Akalbudi cheques for the credit card bills after viewing the findings of an expert document examiner through a chemist report. 

“It was not our intention to make her a scapegoat, we also knew from the prosecution that she was the cause of this,” he said.

Among other things, Hamidi today claimed that Ahmad Zahid never gave permission or approval for Mazlina to stamp his signature on Yayasan Akalbudi cheques, reiterating that the signature stamp was meant only for bulk certificates and festive wishing cards.

At one point, Hamidi claimed Ahmad Zahid could not have known of the use of the Yayasan Akalbudi cheques to pay for the personal credit card bills, arguing that the former deputy prime minister would have objected if he had known especially when there were also instances when there was “overpayment” of these bills using the foundation’s cheques.

“Who benefits? The benefits is on the credit card company. So again I said, it is an obvious fact that there is no knowledge by the accused and we have to bear in mind, he was deputy prime minister, he was home minister at that time and he is very busy.

“That’s why he has other people conducting his personal affairs. And he trusted those people and they negligently misused those,” he said.

Yesterday, Hamidi also argued that Ahmad Zahid cannot be held criminally liable over the use of RM1.3 million of Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds to pay for the credit card bills between 2014 and 2016, claiming that the culpability or responsibility should instead lie with Mazlina as she had control and custody of the Yayasan Akalbudi cheques.

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 today argued that Ahmad Zahid should be acquitted of all 12 criminal breach of trust charges, due to various reasons such as “mistakes” he attributed to Mazlina.

After having said that the defence had not intended to make Mazlina a “scapegoat”, Hamidi also pinpointed Mazlina for allegedly making various mistakes on the use of Yayasan Akalbudi cheques purportedly without Ahmad Zahid’s knowledge.

For example, Hamidi claimed Mazlina had used three Yayasan Akalbudi cheques — with Ahmad Zahid having allegedly “pre-signed” using his handwritten signature — to pay for vehicle insurance policies on his behalf without his knowledge or consent.

Hamidi said Mazlina was supposed to have used Ahmad Zahid’s personal cheque book instead of Yayasan Akalbudi cheque book to pay for the credit card bills and insurance policies, claiming: “In this, she made a mistake, Yayasan Akalbudi was used instead of personal funds.”

Hamidi said both cheque books were in Mazlina’s control, custody and possession as it was in a drawer with the key held by her, arguing that this meant Ahmad Zahid did not have sufficient control over the Yayasan Akalbudi cheques for it to amount to him having “dominion” over it as required to be proven under criminal breach of trust charges.

Hamidi argued that Ahmad Zahid could not be said to have misappropriated Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds as Mazlina was the one who had prepared the cheques, again claiming that Mazlina “had mistakenly used Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds to pay for insurance policies”.

Among other things, Hamidi also claimed that the issue with the transfer of Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds of RM17 million to law firm Lewis & Co was due to Mazlina’s alleged “negligence” and “carelessness and stupidity”.

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