KUALA LUMPUR, May 24 — Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi today continued in court to put the blame on his former executive secretary, insisting that he did not know and had never ordered her to use Yayasan Akalbudi’s cheques bearing his signature to pay for his personal vehicle insurance policies and road tax.
Ahmad Zahid, who is a former deputy prime minister, is also a trustee of the charitable organisation Yayasan Akalbudi which he had founded and which he later became the sole signatory of.
Testifying in his own defence in the trial for alleged criminal breach of trust involving more than RM31 million of Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds, Ahmad Zahid had since yesterday blamed his former executive secretary Major Mazlina Mazlan @ Ramly for having used the charity’s cheques for his personal spending such as to pay his and his wife’s credit card bills and for the vehicle insurance policies.
At one point today, Ahmad Zahid disputed Mazlina’s previous testimony — as the trial’s 90th prosecution witness — that he had allegedly never questioned the secretary why she did not use his personal cheques and that he never questioned why she presented Yayasan Akalbudi cheques for him to sign for the credit card bills.
In rejecting such testimony as allegedly being false, Ahmad Zahid claimed today in court: "I have never and will never give permission to Mazlina to use Yayasan Akalbudi’s cheques for my personal use.”
Ahmad Zahid also claimed that he had never allowed Mazlina to use a stamp of his signature — which he previously claimed to be for Hari Raya cards — or Yayasan Akalbudi cheques which he had pre-signed allegedly for urgent payments to be made for the foundation’s construction projects when he is overseas, for his own personal use.
In this trial, Ahmad Zahid is facing 12 criminal breach of trust charges involving over RM31 million of Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds, namely the alleged misappropriation of funds he was entrusted with — RM1.3 million via 43 cheques for his and his wife’s credit card bills, RM107,509.55 via three cheques for vehicle insurance and road tax for 20 privately-owned vehicles, a RM1.3 million cheque to the police’s football association, a RM10 million cheque for a loan to Armada Holdings Sdn Bhd, RM360,000 via two cheques to political consultancy firm TS Consultancy & Resources, and over RM17.9 million of funds transferred from Yayasan Akalbudi to law firm Lewis & Co.
Zooming in on the RM107,509.55 which he is accused of having misappropriated to pay for road tax and insurance policies for his personal vehicles, Ahmad Zahid claimed that this accusation was untrue as he insisted that it was his secretary who was at fault.
"I state that these cheques are Yayasan Akalbudi cheques which I had pre-signed for Yayasan Akalbudi’s use. But Mazlina had misused those cheques to make payments for vehicle insurance policies and motor vehicle licences,” Ahmad Zahid said.
Ahmad Zahid insisted that it was impossible for him to have issued these Yayasan Akalbudi cheques for his personal vehicles’ insurance policies and road tax, claiming that this was because his signature on the three cheques totalling RM107,509.55 and the handwriting for the name of recipient and the amount were written down using two different inks.
"Here is my signature, here is the recipient and amount, the ink that I signed is different from the ink of the other writings, so it is impossible for me to write using a different ink,” he said of one of these cheques, adding that the recipient’s name and cheque amount were not written by him or his handwriting.
He also repeated similar answers for the two other cheques for the road tax and motor insurance policies.
Ahmad Zahid disputed Mazlina’s previous testimony of him having personally signed these three cheques totalling RM107,509.55 in her presence without questioning why she had given him Yayasan Akalbudi cheques to sign, and her testimony previously that Ahmad Zahid would as usual check the cheque details before signing the cheques.
Disagreeing with Mazlina’s testimony, Ahmad Zahid claimed that he had never allowed Mazlina to use Yayasan Akalbudi cheques — which he claimed to have pre-signed — to pay for road tax and insurance policies for his personal vehicles.
Ahmad Zahid claimed to not have personal knowledge of and insisted he had never ordered Mazlina to use the Yayasan Akalbudi cheques which he allegedly pre-signed for the road tax and insurance policies, also saying he did not know Mazlina would use the cheques for such purposes and that he would have "immediately stopped her actions” if he had known she would do so.
Mazlina was the executive secretary for Ahmad Zahid from December 2011 to May 2018.
About the RM17.9m and why it was sent to a law firm
As for why he had in June 2016 instructed for more than RM17.9 million of Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds to be transferred to law firm Lewis & Co, Ahmad Zahid blamed Mazlina’s mistakes as triggering his decision to transfer the funds.
Describing Mazlina as having made multiple mistakes such as making payments that were different from the amount required in bank statements and not giving him the monthly bank statements as requested, Ahmad Zahid said this secretary had apologised but repeated the mistakes despite him having repeatedly given advice and guidance to her.
Noting that Mazlina did not have accounting background and in the face of such repeated mistakes, Ahmad Zahid said: “What choice do I have other than to find ways for the money in the current account in the bank where all the funds owned by Yayasan Akalbudi was placed, to be transferred to a law firm where there are accountants and also accounting officers and also bookkeepers that handle client’s account.
“Therefore, I decided, the transfer was done not for criminal breach of trust, but to use a law firm that have officers skilled in handling client’s account to hold the money owned by Yayasan Akalbudi on trust,” he said as he insisted that he did not commit CBT in ordering Affin Bank to transfer Yayasan Akalbudi’s RM17.9 million to Lewis & Co Asked how he had decided on Lewis & Co out of so many law firms in Malaysia, Ahmad Zahid said he personally knows the two lawyers of Lewis & Co — via their friend Datuk Sashi Menon who is a lawyer who had left his law firm to work full-time as an officer with the Home Ministry on the Prevention of Crime Act (Poca) and Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) panels.
Ahmad Zahid insisted that the RM17.9 million still belonged to Yayasan Akalbudi after it was shifted to Lewis & Co’s client’s account, and that this fund did not belong to anyone else such as the law firm or Yayasan Al-Falah where his brother Datuk Seri Mohamad Nasaee Ahmad Tarmizi is one of the trustees.
Ahmad Zahid had first given his statement in 2018 to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) during its investigation of him.
On December 31, 2020, Ahmad Zahid had lodged a police report regarding Mazlina’s handling of Yayasan Akalbudi’s cheques, among other things.
He had yesterday explained why he had only lodged this police report years later.
This police report was also the same one that Ahmad Zahid today said he had made to insist that the RM17.9 million that was transferred to Lewis & Co actually belonged to Yayasan Akalbudi and was held on trust by the law firm. Ahmad Zahid was disputing via the police report a previous testimony by a lawyer in Lewis & Co that the RM17.9 million was owned by Yayasan Al-Falah.
Previously, the prosecution had argued that the real reason why Ahmad Zahid had instructed the RM17.9 million transfer was to channel RM8.6 million to help his daughter buy shares in a Bali hotel’s operator, but Ahmad Zahid’s lawyers had previously argued that the share purchase deal was irrelevant and unrelated to the RM17.9 million transfer.
In this trial, Ahmad Zahid ― who is a former home minister and currently the Umno president ― faces 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.
Ahmad Zahid’s trial before High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah resumes this afternoon.