Prosecution questions Zahid’s RM1.3m charity funds for football players, says football club not a soup kitchen or helping poor

Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi arriving at the Kuala Lumpur High Court, October 5, 2021. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi arriving at the Kuala Lumpur High Court, October 5, 2021. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

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KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 13 — Former home minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had dishonestly misappropriated charitable foundation Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds to give RM1.3 million to the police’s football club in November 2015, as this cannot count as charity or eradicating poverty, the prosecution argued in the High Court today.

The prosecution was presenting arguments to show why Ahmad Zahid should be called to enter his defence against 12 criminal breach of trust charges in relation to RM31 million of Yayasan Akalbudi funds.

Lead prosecutor Datuk Raja Rozela Raja Toran today argued that Ahmad Zahid’s alleged use of funds from Yayasan Akalbudi was wrongful and with dishonest intention, as the money was not used for the foundation’s objective of eradicating poverty and enhancing the welfare of the poor.

High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah had noted that Ahmad Zahid’s lawyers had argued that the RM1.3 million cheque from Yayasan Akalbudi to the Persatuan Bola Sepak Polis Diraja Malaysia was given to alleviate salary issues faced by the players, and that the defence had argued that this was within the foundation’s objectives of eradicating poverty.

Raja Rozela however shot down such an argument by Ahmad Zahid’s lawyers, pointing out that the football club had nothing to do with helping the poor.

“This PDRM football club is a football club, it is not an NGO that runs a soup kitchen or a food bank.

“So the club belongs to PDRM, PDRM hires players to play football for them, which in turn means these players are professional players. 

“Players are of course given wages, but our contention is this shortfall of money does not necessarily make one poor. You don’t get your salary for a month or two, does not make one poor, does not make one become destitute. Hence it does not fall into the category of poverty as stated or as envisaged in the Memorandum and Articles of Association, the objects of establishment of Yayasan Akalbudi,” she said, referring to the company constitution of Yayasan Akalbudi.

Previously, Ahmad Zahid’s lawyer Hamidi Mohd Noh had claimed that the RM1.3 million cheque using Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds to the PDRM football association was a “donation” that is in line with the charity’s objectives of helping the poor, arguing that the cheque is to “eradicate the poverty” of this association’s football players as they had not received their salaries for some time.

Responding to Ahmad Zahid’s lawyers’ suggestion that the football players qualify for the so-called “sumbangan” (donation) from Yayasan Akalbudi just because they were not paid their wages, Raja Rozela questioned this line of thought by pointing out that it would mean that civil servants who “would probably qualify as being poor” after the first week of receiving their monthly pay would “easily qualify to receive sumbangan (donation) from Yayasan Akalbudi courtesy of the accused”.

Raja Rozela then referred to the World Bank’s definition of poverty, which included hunger, lack of shelter, being sick and not being able to see a doctor, being illiterate and not being able to go to school, not having a job, fearing for the future and living one day at a time.

“If we accept the description of poverty by the World Bank, I do not see how a football club can fit into that description,” she said.

She highlighted that one of the Yayasan Akalbudi trustees — Muhammad Nabil Salleh — had himself agreed that the police football club was not “fakir miskin” or paupers that need assistance.

“So to Your Lordship’s question and in reply to my learned friend’s suggestion that the money given to PDRM football club falls within the ambit of Akalbudi’s objects, we humbly submit that it does not. PDRM football club does not qualify for any sort of monies from Yayasan Akalbudi,” she said.

Datuk Zul Hisham Zainal is seen at the Kuala Lumpur High Court December 11, 2019. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Datuk Zul Hisham Zainal is seen at the Kuala Lumpur High Court December 11, 2019. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

Raja Rozela also argued that Ahmad Zahid was the one who had issued and signed the RM1.3 million cheque to the football association in contravention of Yayasan Akalbudi’s objects.

While acknowledging that a document examiner had said the RM1.3 million cheque was “most probably not” signed by Ahmad Zahid after examining it, Raja Rozela went on to argue that there was circumstantial evidence from two prosecution witnesses that would enable an inference that the cheque was actually issued by him to the police’s football association.

Raja Rozela noted that Ahmad Zahid’s former executive secretary Major Mazlina Mazlan @ Ramly had as the 90th prosecution witness testified that she had brought the RM1.3 million Yayasan Akalbudi cheque into Ahmad Zahid’s office for him to sign.

Mazlina had also testified that Ahmad Zahid had signed the cheque without asking anything when she told him about a message she had received from Ahmad Zahid’s son-in-law Datuk Zul Hisham Zainal, Raja Rozela noted.

Raja Rozela said Mazlina had also testified to then having passed the cheque to another person  — whom she recalled to be Ahmad Zahid’s driver — to be given to Zul Hisham.

Raja Rozela noted Zul Hisham himself had as the 19th prosecution witness testified to having received a phone call in 2015 from the police’s football association’s assistant secretary ASP Mohd Nizam Mohd Noor for financial assistance of RM1.3 million to pay the players’ outstanding wages and for administrative matters.

Raja Rozela highlighted that Zul Hisham had testified in court previously to having told Ahmad Zahid about the football association’s request, and that he had subsequently received an envelope containing a cheque from Yayasan Akalbudi staff and then contacted Nizam to hand over the cheque.

“These two sets of evidence — one, from Major Mazlina, she presented the cheque for him to sign and witnessed him sign that cheque, and also from Datuk Zul, the accused’s son-in-law, to say that he received a cheque although not directly from the accused according to him.

“We submit based on these two evidence, it is safe to infer the cheque was issued by the accused person and that the accused endorsed the giving of the RM1.3 million. Therefore we would humbly urge the court to find that in this particular transaction, that the accused had acted dishonestly when he misappropriated the RM1.3 million Yayasan Akalbudi cheque,” she said when arguing that Ahmad Zahid had committed criminal breach of trust over the RM1.3 million cheque.

In this trial, Ahmad Zahid ― who is also a former deputy prime 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.

The 12 criminal breach of trust charges involves one charge relating to Ahmad Zahid’s alleged instructions to have RM17.9 million of Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds transferred to a law firm, while the 11 other charges is over the alleged use of more than RM13 million of Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds through 50 cheques for purposes that are not part of the foundation’s aims of eradicating poverty and enhancing the poor’s welfare.

Apart from the RM1.3 million cheque to the police’s football association, the other expenses under the RM13 million sum were listed as being the RM1.3 million payment via 43 cheques for personal credit card bills, a RM107,509.55 payment using three cheques for vehicle insurance and road tax for privately-owned vehicles, a RM10 million loan given out via a cheque to company Armada Holdings Sdn Bhd and a RM360,000 payment via two cheques to political consultancy firm TS Consultancy & Resources which helped register voters.

Raja Rozela had pointed out that “gifting or lending money to a businessman such as Armada Holdings or a football team or political consultancy firm is not charity” by any stretch of imagination, and that such use of Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds would further not be considered as a “means to eradicate poverty”.

The trial resumes tomorrow.

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