SHAH ALAM, May 10 — A prosecution witness told the High Court today former home minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein had granted Ultra Kirana Sdn Bhd a seven year concessional right under a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) model to implement the Visa Application Management System (SPPV) in the People’s Republic of China in 2011.

Djuliana Jamaludin, who was former assistant secretary in the Immigration Affairs Department under the Home Ministry, affirmed this during Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s corruption trial in connection with the Foreign Visa System (VLN).

In her testimony, she said UKSB had initially submitted a proposal to the ministry, offering its Visa Facilitation Services in the People’s Republic of China on a “Proof of Concept” basis between six and 12 months.

In a March 2010 dated letter addressed to Hishammuddin, UKSB had outlined the benefits it could offer through its Visa Facilitation Services that was subsequently minuted by Hishammudin himself for the ministry’s consideration.

In the same letter, UKSB said the implementation will not incur any cost to the government since all service infrastructures will be provided by the company.

“I can confirm that I had access to, including having seen the UKSB letter itself and YB minister’s minute (on the letter),” the prosecution’s 11th witness said. 

She further testified that UKSB had in July 2011 submitted a new application for it to be appointed on a permanent basis for the SPPV’s implementation — both online and conventional at all Malaysian representative offices in China — which was scrutinised by officials from the Home Ministry, Immigration Department and the Tourism Ministry.

“The findings and studies from the aforementioned parties were then presented and finalised in a meeting that took place on September 27, 2011.

“After the meeting, I was instructed by my department to prepare a Consideration Paper to obtain the approval of Hishammuddin regarding UKSB’s application to implement the SPPV 1 Stop Center using a PFI model for a concession period of seven years.

“I signed the Consideration Paper dated September 28, 2011.

“On October 1, 2011, YB minister agreed to the recommendations of the department,” she said.

Taking the stand as the prosecution’s 12th witness, former Home Ministry secretary-general Datuk Seri Abdul Rahim Mohamed Radzi briefly testified that he had signed a letter addressed to then Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to seek the latter’s advice on allowing UKSB to become the sole operator of Malaysian Visa application in the People’s Republic of China. 

The June 2012 letter titled ‘Application to Manage all Visa Applications in the People’s Republic of China through the SPPV 1 Stop Center including the expansion of SPPV 1 Stop Center to Countries in Asian Region’ was relayed to Najib’s private secretary Datuk Seri Ab Aziz Kasim.

 ”Among the justifications for UKSB’s proposed appointment as the sole operator were that SPPV 1 Stop Center for the Malaysian visa system is initially developed by UKSB itself and that ownership of the system will be transferred to the Immigration Department so it could be reused by all immigration attaché offices,” Abdul Rahim said.

Previously, ministry officials had testified that UKSB had sought the approval and continued support of the Barisan Nasional (BN) administration a mere week after Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi took over as home minister from his predecessor Hishammuddin in May 2013.

Audit findings on UKSB’s initial OSC ‘proof of concept’ run prepared

Separately, the prosecution’s 13th witness, Mohamad Firdaus Ismail testified that he had prepared a field report on UKSB’s ‘proof of concept’ run of the OSC during a work trip to the Immigration Attaché Office in Guangzhou, People’s Republic of China in February 2012.

At the time, Mohamad Firdaus held the post of Assistant Secretary in the Immigration Affairs Department under the Home Ministry.

“Several weaknesses in the SPPV were discovered as part of the audit findings as stated in the field report (dated February 15),” he said in his witness statement.

Mohamad Firdaus also said several recommendations were proposed to further rectify the implementation of the SPPV which was subsequently approved by Abdul Rahim on February 17.

Earlier Abdul Rahim had affirmed his signature on the said document which was presented in court for identification. 

In August the same year, Mohamad Firdaus said he was instructed by his superior to prepare a Consideration Paper for the purpose of obtaining a decision from Hishammudin, who was the Home Minister at the time.

Accordingly, this Consideration Paper involved the request to manage the foreign visa application based on the ‘1 Country 1 One Stop Centre’ concept following the successful contract signing between UKSB and the Malaysian Government for achieving the objective of reducing the work burden of Malaysian Representative Office personnel through the SPPV’s implementation.

“Due to UKSB’s achievement, all attaché offices in the People’s Republic of China have agreed for the SPPV developed by UKSB to be continued and all standard visa application is channelled to the SPPV One Stop Centre,” he said.

Subsequent to the preparation of the Consideration Paper, Mohamad Firdaus also affirmed that Hishammuddin gave the Consideration Paper his approval on August 8, 2012.

In this VLN case, Ahmad Zahid pleaded not guilty to 33 charges of receiving bribes amounting to S$13.56 million (RM42 million) from UKSB as an inducement for himself in his capacity as a civil servant then as home minister to extend the contract of the company as the operator of OSC in China and the VLN.

He allegedly committed the offences at Seri Satria, Precinct 16, Putrajaya and in Country Heights, Kajang, between October 2014 and March 2018.

For another seven charges, Ahmad Zahid was charged as home minister for accepting S$1,150,000, RM3,000,000, €15,000 and US$15,000 in cash from the same company which he knew had a connection with his function as then home minister.

He was charged with committing the offences at a house in Country Heights, between June 2015 and October 2017, under Section 165 of the Penal Code which carries a maximum jail term of two years, or a fine, or both if found guilty.

The trial before High Court judge Datuk Mohd Yazid Mustafa resumes tomorrow.