KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid was subjected to intense pressure from Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, who was part of "Team Saidi" to approve the Jepak Holdings Sdn Bhd’s solar hybrid project in Sarawak, the High Court heard on Thursday (Feb 6).
Mahdzir, who was the Education Minister from July 2015 to May 2018, said that apart from Rosmah,"Team Saidi" consisted of Jepak Holdings managing director Saidi Abang Samsudin, Datuk Rizal Mansor, and Aazmey Abu Talib.
The 59-year-old was the fifth prosecution witness to the bribery trial of the wife of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
The court heard that Rosmah had shown a keen interest in the Jepak Holdings solar hybrid project.
“An incident of this happened on June 23,2016, after a breaking of fast event at the Prime Minister’s official residence in Putrajaya.
“While shaking Rosmah’s hand before I went home, she told me something like: ‘Can you take a look at cikgu (teacher) Aazmey’s project. Can you speed it up?’, ” he said, adding that he understood it as Rosmah asking him to speed up the approval process for Jepak Holdings’s solar hybrid project application.
“This incident strengthened my belief that Rosmah was in ‘Team Saidi’.
“Since Rosmah herself has spoken to me (about it), I feel that I need to take it seriously, as she is the wife of the prime minister who is influential and wields authority, ” he said.
The court heard that the first time Mahdzir received instruction to award Jepak Holdings the solar hybrid project was on Dec 16,2015.
The instruction, he said, came from Najib.
“Najib had written notes on Jepak Holdings in a letter to him dated Nov 23,2015. The notes were addressed to me and it said ‘agreed to implement this new system and to cancel the old system’, he said, adding that Najib had also put his signature under the notes.
He told the court that the new system referred to the solar hybrid project that was suggested by Jepak Holdings, with an operational cost of RM1.25bil.
The old system, he added, referred to the diesel generator project (diesel genset).
Mahdzir had earlier told the court that he knew Saidi since the 1990s.
He said that the pressure to approve the solar hybrid project proposal followed soon after that.
“After April 2016, Rayyan Radzwill Abdullah (Saidi’s business partner) started pressuring for the solar hybrid project to be given to Jepak Holdings.
“Rayyan told me to just follow the instructions of the prime minister and that there was no need to go through the technical process.
“Rayyan had told me something like: ‘How hard is it to just follow the prime minister’s order? The prime minister has given his notes. You just follow’, ” he said, adding that Rayyan said this after he had informed them that the Education Ministry had sent the application to the Technical Committee.
At the same time, Mahdzir said that Saidi was also contacting him relentlessly about the project.
“Between December 2015 and May 2016, Saidi always asked for my help to speed up the solar hybrid project application and to award the project to Jepak Holdings, as was advised by the prime minister.
“I didn’t entertain his request; and had told Saidi that I need to follow the administrative process and to wait for feedback from the Education Ministry’s officers, ” he said.
The court heard that Mahdzir was also threatened by Rayyan.
“Rayyan had threatened me by saying that I would not be education minister for long, because I did not follow Najib’s orders, ” he said.
Mahdzir noted that the solar hybrid system needed careful planning as the needs and challenges of Sarawak rural schools needed to be taken into account.
He then appointed Jepak Holdings to carry out a pilot project for 16 schools in Mukah and Daro districts, and 12 schools in the Baram district.
“In my opinion, the pilot project could test the efficiency and the feasibility of the solar hybrid project and to test the capabilities of Jepak Holdings to handle the project.
“This is important as the project proposed by Jepak Holdings involved 358 schools, ” he said.
Mahdzir said that from his interaction with Saidi and Rayyan at that time, he felt that the duo were unhappy with his actions.
The court then heard that Rosmah’s former aide Datuk Rizal Mansor contacted Mahdzir in May 2016 to question his move of only giving a pilot project to Jepak Holdings when Najib had given instructions to cancel the old system and replace it with the new system.
“Rizal also told me that Najib had made the decision and that ‘ma'am’ also knew about the solar hybrid project, ” he said.
He added that he knew ‘ma'am’ was referred to Rosmah.
Mahdzir also said around June 2016, he had told Najib to use the open tender process, instead of a direct negotiation to ensure that there was fair competition and the delivery of an efficient service.
However, he said Najib insisted that he carry out his instructions.
Mahdzir told the court that he then received a letter dated Nov 6,2016, with instructions from Najib asking him to issue a Letter of Award (LOA) as soon as possible.
“When I received this letter, I felt pressured by ‘Team Saidi’ to issue the LOA to Jepak Holdings as soon as possible, ” he said.
He added that he had started to avoid meeting Saidi and Rayyan by then.
The trial continues before High Court Judge Justice Mohamed Zaini Mazlan on Monday (Feb 10).
On Nov 15,2018, Rosmah claimed trial to two charges of graft involving RM187.5mil related to projects to provide electricity to schools in Sarawak.
According to the first charge, Rosmah was accused of soliciting for herself a RM187.5mil bribe from Saidi, through her former aide Datuk Rizal Mansor.
The money was a reward for helping Jepak Holdings obtain a project, through direct negotiations with the Education Ministry, to install solar hybrid systems and for the maintenance and operation of diesel generators for 369 rural schools in Sarawak.
The project, known as "Project Bersepadu Sistem Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Hibrid", was valued at RM1.25bil; and RM187.5mil is 15% of that amount.
Rosmah allegedly committed the offence at Lygon Cafe, Sunway Putra Mall in Jalan Putra here between January and April 2016.
In the second charge, she was accused of receiving RM1.5mil from Saidi as a reward for assisting Jepak Holdings obtain the same project.
The offence was allegedly committed at her house in Jalan Langgak Duta, Taman Duta, on Sept 7,2017.
On April 10,2019, Rosmah was charged again for allegedly receiving a bribe of RM5mil from Saidi through Rizal, for the same purpose.
She allegedly committed the offence at Seri Perdana Residence, Persiaran Seri Perdana, Precinct 10, Putrajaya, on Dec 20,2016.
All of the charges were framed under Section 16(a)(A) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009.
Rosmah faces imprisonment of up to 20 years and a fine of no less than five times the amount of gratification or RM10,000, whichever is higher, if convicted.
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