KUALA LUMPUR, July 6 — Former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi today sought to justify why he had not asked two businessmen where their 2016 donations totalling RM7 million originated from, saying donors to charities must get the benefit of doubt on how they raised funds.

Testifying in his defence in his corruption and money laundering trial, Ahmad Zahid also suggested it would be “funny” to ask donors whether their contributions were from legal or illegal sources.

Asked regarding seven cheques worth RM5 million — issued by Mastoro Kenny IT Consultant & Services — which textile wholesaler Junaith Asharab Md Shariff had given to him at his house in 2016, Ahmad Zahid said these cheques were given as a donation to develop a mosque and tahfiz school in Bagan Datuk as agreed verbally between him and Junaith Asharab.

Ahmad Zahid said the RM5 million worth of cheques were given to him on an “akad” or a verbal agreement as witnessed by Ahmad Zahid’s younger brother Datuk Seri Mohamad Nasaee Ahmad Tarmizi, who had come with Junaith Asharab to the house.


Besides saying that he was uncertain what Nasaee’s connection was with the cheques, Ahmad Zahid said he did not know Mastoro Kenny at all and that it was not related to himself personally.

Asked if he had told Junaith to inform Mastoro Kenny for these cheques to be issued, Ahmad Zahid said: “Yang Arif, I do not know Mastoro Kenny, don’t know Mastoro or any others, I know Junaith who handled funds from his family.” He later also said he did not ask Junaith about his relationship to the company Mastoro Kenny.

Asked if he knew the cheques were from Mastoro Kenny upon receiving them physically from Junaith, Ahmad Zahid again claimed to have no such knowledge and that he did not see the name “Mastoro Kenny” on the cheque.


“I know the cheques were donations by Junaith, from what sources including Mastoro Kenny, I never knew, because I sangka baik (gave the benefit of doubt) that it is donations as testified by Junaith in this court,” he said.

Asked if the issuer of the RM5 million cheques was not important to him as there was an “akad” and he believed and trusted Junaith who allegedly intended to make a donation, Ahmad Zahid said: “Yang Arif, Junaith already testified in court, he comes from a wealthy family, how could I question him? Because he would like to donate, I should not ask him where is the money coming from. I know he comes from wealthy family and his in-laws also come from a rich family in India.

“Yang Arif, it’s very funny, when somebody is donating to your organisation, then you ask the donor, is this money legal or illegal or from illegal activities. In this matter, ‘husnuzon’ is important, and on the matter of funds for matters related to religion, certainly we would have confidence and trust towards the persons donating or that organisation would have the intention that they are also able to get ‘pahala’ (divine rewards),” he added.

Throughout the trial today, Ahmad Zahid frequently cited the term “husnuzon” or the call in Islam to give others the benefit of doubt, when repeatedly explaining his view of the millions in ringgit of donations by businessmen which he insisted were for the charity Yayasan Akalbudi.

Ahmad Zahid is a trustee of and the sole signatory for cheques for Yayasan Akalbudi, a foundation established with the aim of eradicating poverty and helping the poor.

Just like for many of the donations highlighted in this trial, Ahmad Zahid confirmed that there was no letter either from Junaith Asharab or Mastoro Kenny to confirm the RM5 million worth of cheques’ purpose for a mosque and tahfiz school in Bagan Datuk, but disagreed that the intentions for the contribution could always change if it is not written down.

Ahmad Zahid confirmed he had asked Junaith Asharab to write down law firm Lewis & Co as the recipients for the RM5 million cheques, as he would usually tell donors for Yayasan Akalbudi to make their cheques payable to the foundation’s alleged trustee Lewis & Co. Ahmad Zahid has insisted that Lewis & Co has a client account to keep funds on behalf of Yayasan Akalbudi.

He also explained he would usually ask his political or ministry’s officers to send such cheques to Lewis & Co to be banked in to the law firm’s client account which allegedly held funds on trust for Yayasan Akalbudi, later also saying that he did not personally deliver such cheques to the law firm due to his very tight schedule as the “number two in the country then” — alluding to his past position as the deputy prime minister.

Junaith Asharab Md Shariff is seen at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex in this February 19, 2020 file picture. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Junaith Asharab Md Shariff is seen at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex in this February 19, 2020 file picture. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Ahmad Zahid was also asked regarding a RM2 million cheque issued by businessman Mubarak Hussain Akhtar Husin from his personal bank account in November 2016 and which was allegedly given as a donation which was banked in to Lewis & Co’s client account.

Asked if he had asked Mubarak Hussain about the source of the RM2 million donation, Ahmad Zahid instead said he knew his brother who is also a businessman and a youth chief of one of Umno’s divisions in Kuala Lumpur.

Asked how he was able to conclude that the donations worth RM7 million given by both Junaith and Mubarak Hussain are not funds from illegal activities, Ahmad Zahid replied: “Mubarak and his siblings carry out businesses, and Junaith also as I have stated when this witness was in court, that donation done was from his family, I don’t think they come from a ‘kongsi gelap’ (gangster or triad) family.”

When deputy public prosecutor Harris Ong Mohd Jeffery Ong suggested that this was merely his “assumption” based on his friendship with them and his observation, Ahmad Zahid insisted that this was not an issue of assumption but about integrity and suggested that donors should not be questioned.

Ahmad Zahid also asked if there was proof that these two donors were being probed by the police or the authorities over any money laundering offences or over income being obtained from illegal activities.

In response to the suggestion that he would not care about the source of funds if it is meant for charity, Ahmad Zahid maintained his earlier answer and said: “If donations are given, do I have to ask?”

Asked again if he would accept funds if it is for charity without questioning and if he views the donors as having good and sincere intentions for charity, Ahmad Zahid again stressed: “We must ‘sangka baik, husnuzon’ (give the benefit of doubt).”

These RM7 million worth of cheques given by the two businessmen as “donations” were subsequently placed by Lewis & Co into fixed deposits, and the law firm had later withdrew the fixed deposits in order to issue a RM5.9 million cheque for the 2017 purchase of two houses, described as “bungalows” in Country Heights.

Ahmad Zahid is facing 47 charges, namely 12 counts of criminal breach of trust in relation to RM31 million of charitable foundation Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds, 27 counts of money-laundering, and eight counts of bribery charges.

One of the 27 money-laundering charges that Ahmad Zahid is facing alleges that he had engaged directly in a transaction that involves proceeds of unlawful activity, by giving instruction to buy the two “bungalow lots” for RM5.9 million using a cheque issued by the law firm Lewis & Co via a client account at Maybank, with the funds said to be illegal proceeds.

The trial before High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah resumes tomorrow, with Harris Ong expected to continue cross-examining Ahmad Zahid on the money laundering charges.