KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 6 — Former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s alleged failure to check if the millions of ringgit of purported “donations” received were from lawful or illegal sources is quite similar to the situation in former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s criminal case, the High Court heard today.
The prosecution had highlighted the similarities between the two court cases in order to show the High Court why Ahmad Zahid should continue to be prosecuted and should enter his defence against money-laundering charges.
In this trial, Ahmad Zahid is facing 27 money-laundering charges relating to funds that were allegedly proceeds from unlawful activities, including 25 charges involving his alleged instructions to law firm Lewis & Co on 25 separate occasions to put over RM53 million into fixed deposit accounts.
The 26th charge is over Ahmad Zahid’s alleged instructions to buy two bungalows worth RM5.9 million via a cheque from Lewis & Co involving unlawful funds, while the 27th charge involves his alleged instructions to moneychanger Omar Ali Abdullah to convert RM7.5 million of illegal funds into 35 cheques that were then given to the same law firm to be placed in fixed deposits.
Deputy public prosecutor Harris Ong Mohd Jeffery Ong referred to Najib’s money-laundering trial which involved RM42 million of funds belonging to former 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) subsidiary SRC International Sdn Bhd.
In that case, Najib had been found guilty by the High Court in July last year over seven charges — criminal breach of trust, abuse of power, money laundering — in relation to the RM42 million.
Najib has since appealed the case, with the appeal having been heard and now awaiting a decision from the Court of Appeal.
In the SRC case, Najib had sought to defend himself by claiming that the RM42 million originated from donations from Saudi Arabia.
Harris today read out excerpts of the judgement in Najib’s case, highlighting judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali’s remarks that it was hard to believe that Najib had not known or at least have reasonable suspicion that the RM42 million deposit in his personal bank accounts were proceeds of an unlawful activity especially when the entire RM42 million was immediately used up.
Harris then alluded to various money-laundering charges in Ahmad Zahid’s case while comparing it to Najib’s court case.
For example, Harris had referred to a transfer of RM17.9 million from Yayasan Akalbudi — where Ahmad Zahid is a trustee — to Lewis & Co as well as the influx of other alleged illegal funds into the same law firm, with such funds allegedly used to fund Ahmad Zahid’s daughter’s share purchase deal (which was later aborted and with over RM8 million given back to the law firm to place in fixed deposits) and also the RM5.9 million purchase of two bungalows in Country Heights, Selangor.
“It also shares the similar facts, the money transferred into Lewis & Co is a large amount, more than RM17 million, and also the accused had power to manage, to utilise the sum, by way of purchase of shares and bungalows,” Harris said, referring to Ahmad Zahid as the accused.
Harris also cited the High Court’s judgement in Najib’s case, where the court said the overwhelming suspicions that arose from the circumstances allegedly leads to the irresistible conclusion that Najib deliberately chose not to raise questions in order to deny having knowledge, also suggesting that the accused was wilfully blind by not taking a single step to investigate whether the funds received were proceeds from unlawful activities.
Earlier, Harris argued that Ahmad Zahid had failed to take reasonable steps to determine whether the money that came in — including millions of ringgit in “donations” via cheques from businessmen — were actually proceeds from unlawful activities.
Taking all the evidence as a whole including the alleged “suspicious” nature of the cheques as well as Ahmad Zahid’s failure to check if the money was from illegal sources, Harris argued that all these point to the existence of money laundering in this case.
Harris concluded by saying that the prosecution has shown credible evidence to prove all elements of the 27 money laundering charges against Ahmad Zahid, and argued that the High Court should call Ahmad Zahid to enter his defence in order to explain himself and all his actions in relation to the 27 offences.
In this trial, Ahmad Zahid — who is a former home minister and currently 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.
The trial before High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah resumes next Monday.