SHAH ALAM, May 17 ― Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s handwritten minutes to former home minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to proceed with Ultra Kirana Sdn Bhd’s contract extension approval for the government’s Foreign Visa System (VLN) cannot be construed a directive, a witness told the High Court today.
UKSB director Datuk Fadzil Ahmad, who is the 14th prosecution witness in Ahmad Zahid’s VLN corruption trial said: “Even though Najib was PM at the time, the source of authoritative power and jurisdiction (to approve contract extensions) was under the purview of the Home Ministry, all of our applications started there and not the PM’s office.
“The prime minister could probably write in to expedite the process but not give orders,” Fadzil said during re-examination by deputy public prosecutor Zander Lim Wai Keong.
When asked who the approving minister was at the time, Fadzil said it was Ahmad Zahid who had the final say.
Earlier during cross-examination, defence lawyer Hamidi Mohd Noh had put it to Fadzil that Najib’s handwritten minute to Ahmad Zahid in a letter undersigned by UKSB on the VLN’s implementation was a specific instruction issued by the former to the latter.
In his reply, Fadzil disagreed with Hamidi’s assertion that Ahmad Zahid was merely following specific orders as a subordinate.
Fadzil had also agreed to Hamidi’s assertion that the VLN’s contract extension sought by UKSB ― which had taken place roughly three years before its expiry ― was neither driven by external motivations nor urgency as it was ‘natural’ for such a matter to take place.
Hamidi: There was no necessity for UKSB to expedite or obtain a contract extension because logically you can apply for an extension not less than six months before its expiry.
No problem at all. Secondly, it's natural to extend. It's nothing new that needed incentive. Or motivation. There's nothing peculiar, it's natural the VLN contract needed to be extended, correct?
Fadzil: Well it depends on why the need for extension and I don’t think it's automatically extended.
Hamidi then cited the clauses in the original contract agreement which stipulated that an extension may be applied no less than six months before its expiry.
Previously, sixth prosecution witness Home Ministry’s former secretary-general Tan Sri Alwi Ibrahim had expressed dissatisfaction that the contract extension was given to UKSB “too early” — roughly three years before it was to expire.
Ahmad Zahid is facing 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 and the then home minister to extend the contract of the company as the operator of the OSCs in China and the VLN system as well as to maintain the agreement to supply VLN integrated system paraphernalia to the same company by the Home Ministry.
For another seven counts, Ahmad Zahid was charged as home minister to have obtained for himself S$1,150,000, RM3 million, €15,000 and US$15,000 in cash from the same company in connection with his official work.
The trial before Judge Datuk Mohd Yazid Mustafa continues tomorrow.