KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 4 — Electoral watchdog Bersih has today called on the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) to review Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA) from all 47 charges in his Yayasan Akalbudi trial and recharge him if necessary.
The Bersih steering committee said the AGC must also reveal what possible new charges or new directions of investigation they are studying against Ahmad Zahid, since the prosecution now owed the public an explanation as to why the application for DNAA was made when a prima facie case has already been established.
“This is unacceptable when the prosecution had successfully established a prima facie case and Zahid must present his defence.
“If there is no plan for new charges, then this might be amounting to providing an escape route for Zahid to apply for full acquittal within months,” it said in a statement here.
The steering committee also questioned when the latest development was a prelude to the dropping of all remaining charges against former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak whose 1MDB trial is ongoing.
Moreover, Bersih also urged Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to immediately announce a clear roadmap and timeline for the separation of Public Prosecutor and the AGC as the latest development strongly reinforced the urgency of such institutional reforms.
“As it stands now, the attorney general is a political appointee advising the government who plays the duo role of the public prosecutor who holds the power to initiate or drop criminal charges.
“This power can be abused or weaponised for political reasons,” they said, cautioning Anwar that further delay in reforms may greatly damage his government’s credibility.
The High Court was initially scheduled to continue hearing Zahid’s trial today, but the prosecution informed the court that it wished to discontinue the trial against Zahid in line with the AG’s powers under Article 145 of the Federal Constitution and Section 254 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
The prosecution applied for a DNAA based on at least 11 reasons including to enable more comprehensive and complete investigations to be carried out on Zahid’s case, while Zahid’s lead defence lawyer Datuk Hisyam Teh Poh Teik had argued that Zahid should be fully acquitted without the possibility of being charged with the same charges hanging over his head.
Judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah then decided to grant a discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA) for Zahid’s case, which means Zahid has been released of the 47 charges for now but could still be prosecuted with the same charges again in the future.
Zahid, who is also Umno president and Barisan Nasional chairman, was facing 47 charges in this case, namely, 12 counts of criminal breach of trust in relation to over RM31 million of his charitable organisation Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds, 27 counts of money laundering, and eight counts of bribery charges of over RM21.25 million in alleged bribes.
Yayasan Akalbudi was founded with the purported objectives of receiving and administering funds for the eradication of poverty and enhancing the welfare of the poor.