KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 14 — Former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi should be acquitted and discharged of the 27 money laundering charges, his lawyer argued in court today.

Ahmad Zahid’s lead defence lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik claimed that his client’s prosecution for alleged money laundering offences was driven by political motivations.

In arguing why his client should not continue to be prosecuted for all 27 money laundering charges, Teh concluded by registering the defence’s “strongest protest” against the prosecution for charging his client over such offences.

“This is a case of prosecutorial misconduct or responsibility,” he claimed, arguing that the prosecution did not weigh or consider the evidence before pressing the charges against Ahmad Zahid.

“It is a dark day for our criminal justice system. It is an abuse of process.

“It lends credence to the belief that the motivation for the prosecution was political and not based on law or evidence,” he argued.

Lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex August 18, 2020. ― Picture by Hari Anggara
Lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex August 18, 2020. ― Picture by Hari Anggara

For the 27 money laundering charges against Ahmad Zahid, a key element that has to be proven is that the money involved came from illegal activities.

Teh claimed that the prosecution has not shown this to be the case for the 27 charges.

For example, Teh had last week argued that the total RM53 million sum under 25 money laundering charges were actually “donations” from individuals and companies for Yayasan Akalbudi — a charitable foundation where Ahmad Zahid is a trustee.

Teh argued that the prosecution has not produced evidence to show the RM53 million to be the proceeds from unlawful activities.

For these 25 charges, Ahmad Zahid is alleged to have instructed law firm Lewis & Co on 25 separate occasions to put funds totalling RM53,878,347.95 or over RM53 million that were allegedly proceeds from unlawful activities into fixed deposit accounts.

Throughout the trial, Ahmad Zahid’s lawyers have asserted that Lewis & Co is a trustee for Yayasan Akalbudi and that it allegedly holds money on trust for the foundation.

Yesterday, Teh similarly argued that there was nothing illegal about the donations worth millions of ringgit from two businessmen that were intended for donations such as mosque-building or for tahfiz schools, and asserted that this was why the 26th money laundering charge against Ahmad Zahid too cannot stand.

Under the 26th money laundering charge, these funds totalling RM7 million were placed into fixed deposits and subsequently withdrawn by the law firm Lewis & Co, out of which RM5.9 million was eventually used to buy two bungalow lots in Country Heights, Kajang for Ahmad Zahid’s family’s religious foundation Yayasan Al-Falah.

For the 27th money laundering charge, Ahmad Zahid was alleged to have engaged directly in a transaction involving funds originating from unlawful activities by instructing moneychanger Omar Ali Abdullah to convert RM7.5 million of cash into 35 cheques given to Lewis & Co to be placed in fixed deposits.

Teh had today argued that the 27th money laundering charge cannot stand against his client, claiming that the prosecution had failed to prove that these funds were not donations from Yayasan Albukhary and failing to prove that these were proceeds from illegal activities.

Based on his arguments for all the 27 money laundering charges, Teh had then concluded that his client should be acquitted of all these charges.

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.

So far, Ahmad Zahid’s lawyers have argued that he should have “immunity” from prosecution for 46 out of the 47 charges due to a now-repealed law that grants such immunity to those who give truthful information to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

Ahmad Zahid’s lawyers have also so far listed out their reasons on why their client should not continue to be prosecuted for the 12 criminal breach of trust charges and the 27 money laundering charges.

The trial before High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah resumes tomorrow, with Ahmad Zahid’s lawyers expected to present arguments relating to the eight corruption charges.

It is yet to be the prosecution’s turn to present their oral submissions or arguments verbally before the judge.

The trial is now at the end of the prosecution's case, with Ahmad Zahid’s lawyers and the prosecution to present their final arguments verbally before the court decides on whether a prima facie case has been proven by the prosecution.

If the prosecution is found to have proven a prima facie case, Ahmad Zahid would have to enter his defence. If no prima facie case is found, he would be acquitted of the charges.