Zahid's lawyer argues against CBT charge, says RM1.3m 'donation' to 'eradicate poverty' of football players using charity Yayasan Akalbudi's funds

Former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex September 7, 2021. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex September 7, 2021. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

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KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 8 ― Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi could not have committed criminal breach of trust over the use of charitable foundation Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds to make a RM1.3 million “donation” to the police’s football team, as this was done to “eradicate poverty”, his lawyer argued in court today.

Ahmad Zahid’s lawyer Hamidi Mohd Noh told the High Court that his client should be acquitted and discharged of criminal breach of trust in relation to the RM1.3 million “donation” to Persatuan Bola Sepak Polis Diraja Malaysia or the police’s football association in November 2015.

At that time, Ahmad Zahid was a trustee of Yayasan Akalbudi and had also become the sole signatory for the foundation’s cheques.

Hamidi argued that it was undisputed that Ahmad Zahid was a home minister then and that the police was under his jurisdiction at that time.

He asserted that the donation was necessary because the police’s football association was facing financial difficulties then and the salaries for its football players had been overdue for some time.

He then cited testimony of the 19th prosecution witness Datuk Zul Hisham Zainal who is also Ahmad Zahid’s son-in-law.

Hamidi said Zul Hisham had said the RM1.3 million cheque was solely as a donation to the football association and “essentially to pay the wages of football players in need of financial help”.

Hamidi argued that this RM1.3 million cheque signed off by Ahmad Zahid was for a payment that is allowed by Yayasan Akalbudi’s company constitution, otherwise known as the Memorandum and Articles of Association (M&A).

“Our response, other than the fact it was a donation which is allowed by the Memorandum and Articles of Association, there is no criminal breach of trust because the trustees themselves knew about the PDRM Bola Sepak donation, and they knew and they never raised any objections,” he argued, referring to previous court testimony by two other trustees of Yayasan Akalbudi, Muhammad Nabil Salleh and Datuk Khairuddin Tarmizi.

Hamidi said that among other things the M&A allowed for donations to local or national institutions or organisations. 

Trial judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah then said the overall intention has to be to “eradicate poverty”, which is the main objective of Yayasan Akalbudi.

Hamidi argued that this condition was followed.

“But this is poverty, we are talking about a group of football players which have not gotten salary for some time, and eradicating poverty which is poverty of football players. And this problem is real because many football associations, their players are poor because they did not receive salary, because football associations depend on donations.

“So therefore, they went to look for donations and among them are PDRM Bola Sepak to eradicate the poverty of football players of PDRM Bola Sepak, that we submit is in line with the M&A,” he argued.

Hamidi also highlighted the preamble to Yayasan Akalbudi’s company constitution. He said it has a general phrase that would enable the RM1.3 million donation to the football association to fall within the charity’s objectives of helping the poor.

“There is a wording ‘to this end’ at the preamble. The preamble - ‘receive and administer funds for eradication of poverty and enhance welfare of the poor and conduct research for poverty eradication programmes and to this end’. There’s a general term which allows for such donation to be made,” he said.

In this trial, Ahmad Zahid ― who is also a former deputy prime minister 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 was arguing to the court on why Ahmad Zahid should be acquitted and discharged of all 12 criminal breach of trust charges.

For example, Hamidi argued that Ahmad Zahid should also not be prosecuted for criminal breach of trust over a RM10 million cheque issued by Yayasan Akalbudi to Armada Holdings Sdn Bhd in 2015.

Hamidi claimed that the RM10 million was both a loan and investment by Yayasan Akalbudi in Armada Holdings, which wanted to use the funds as borrowed capital to procure a tender.

Hamidi said Armada Holdings had one month later subsequently returned RM10 million along with over RM69,722.65 in “interest”, arguing that the RM69,000 sum counts as a “profit” for Yayasan Akalbudi.

Hamidi argued that the RM10 million cheque paid out of Yayasan Akalbudi is allowed by its company constitution, citing a clause which allowed the foundation to locally invest its money which it does not immediately need from time to time as the foundation through its board of trustees think fit — to fulfil the main objective of eradicating poverty.

“Therefore, Yang Arif, we submit there is no criminal breach of trust, being the reason there’s no wrongful loss or wrongful gain. There were gains made by Yayasan Akalbudi as it is permitted to make gains and invest in companies in Malaysia. Yayasan gained RM69,000 from that investment.

“We submit there’s no wrongful loss or wrongful gain, there’s no dishonesty because the money went back to Yayasan Akalbudi with an interest. Therefore we submit that the accused ought to be acquitted and discharged for this charge,” he said.

As for two of the CBT charges involving a total of RM360,000 via two Yayasan Akalbudi cheques to the company TS Consultancy & Resources in 2015 and 2016, Hamidi claimed that such transactions were allowed as TS Consultancy was registered with the Companies Commission of Malaysia as a “training centre” and was not registered to help Barisan Nasional register new voters.

Hamidi said Yayasan Akalbudi’s company constitution includes the establishment of “training” centres to fulfil its objectives and said the RM360,000 was also used for charitable purposes, arguing that this meant that there was no dishonest misappropriation and that this meant these charges cannot stand against Ahmad Zahid.

Based on the law including past court judgments, the offence of criminal breach of trust would require the proving that a person entrusted with or having control of property had acted dishonestly when misappropriating, converting for own use, using or disposing of such property.

The trial resumes tomorrow morning.

 

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