SHAH ALAM: “I was disgraced, I was humiliated and stripped naked in the court of public opinion but now I am vindicated.”
Those were the words of former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi after he was freed by the Shah Alam High Court of all 40 graft charges in the Foreign Visa System (VLN) case.
High Court judge Justice Mohd Yazid Mustafa held that the prosecution had not succeeded in establishing a case against Ahmad Zahid.
“I find the prosecution has failed to make a prima facie case on all the charges,’’ said Justice Mohd Yazid.
Ahmad Zahid, 69, was charged with 33 counts of receiving bribes amounting to S$13.56mil (RM44mil) from Ultra Kirana Sdn Bhd (UKSB) during his tenure as home minister to extend the company’s contract to continue operating the one-stop centre in China and the VLN.
The alleged graft was also to ensure that the contract agreement for the supply of the VLN integrated system by the company was maintained.
Seven additional charges were also levelled against Ahmad Zahid for allegedly procuring for himself S$1.15mil, RM3mil, 15,000 Swiss francs and US$15,000 in his capacity as home minister.
He was accused of committing the acts between October 2014 and March 2018 at his private residence in Country Homes, Kajang, and his official residence in Putrajaya.
Justice Mohd Yazid said there was a lack of credibility among the prosecution’s three main witnesses – UKSB directors VK Lee and Wan Quoris Shah Wan Abdul Ghani as well as its former administrative manager David Tan Siong Sun.
“I find the three key witnesses called by the prosecution were not reliable and neither were they trustworthy or credible,’’ said Justice Mohd Yazid when reading his judgment which took slightly over two hours.
He said he also doubted the credibility of a ledger which was tendered as evidence as there was missing data about the inflow and outflow of funds that had allegedly been delivered to Ahmad Zahid.
He added that the purported money entered in the ledger was not reported in the company’s internal audit or reflected in UKSB’s audited accounts.
Justice Mohd Yazid also said there was no evidence presented to show the size of the envelopes used to allegedly deliver funds to Ahmad Zahid.
“I cannot imagine the size of an envelope that would contain S$600,000 in cash,” he said, drawing comparison to Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor’s graft case where the prosecution had described how the funds had been given out.
He noted that in the case involving former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib’s Razak’s wife, the alleged RM5mil had been split into two equal amounts and placed in two bags.
Justice Mohd Yazid said he found the statements by three key prosecution witnesses, who said the code names Z and ZH were used to denote Ahmad Zahid in the ledger, were insufficient to prove the accused had received the funds.
In the ledger, Tan had used code names for Zahid, such as Monster, Mon, YB, Young Boy, ZH and Z.
The judge said Tan did not explain, during the proceedings, as to why the code names were attributed to Ahmad Zahid.
“There are unsolved and unanswered doubts as to whether the money even existed and who had delivered the money to the accused,’’ said Justice Mohd Yazid.
He added that he was of the view that the particulars of the person who had purportedly delivered the cash to the accused ought to have been mentioned in all the charges that were levelled against Ahmad Zahid.
“The absence of important details like who delivered the money to the accused amounts to a serious prejudice to the accused in the preparation of the defence,’’ he said.
He said that another UKSB director, Datuk Fadzil Ahmad, who had a key role in securing the contract for the company, had also testified that he was unaware of the funds being delivered to Ahmad Zahid.
There was also no corroborative evidence such as CCTV footage to prove that Ahmad Zahid had received the money.
He said although there was a contention that Ahmad Zahid had received RM200,000 on two occasions, said to be political donations, there was insufficient evidence to come up with an amended charge.
Justice Mohd Yazid, however, also rebutted the argument by the defence that Ahmad Zahid was facing selective prosecution.
He said it was the Attorney General’s discretion as to who he wanted to charge and that Ahmad Zahid had a capable defence team led by Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, a senior criminal lawyer.
The judge said he also did not accept the line of argument revolving around the subject of political donations as, if this was the case, there must be evidence that the money was spent solely for that purpose.
The prosecution team comprised Datuk Raja Rozela Raja Toran, Datuk Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin, Abdul Malik Ayob, Zander Lim Wai Keong and B. Thavani while Hisyam, Datuk Ahmad Zaidi Zainal and Hamidi Mohd Noh appeared for Ahmad Zahid.
Although Ahmad Zahid walked free of the 40 charges yesterday, he still has corruption charges hanging over his head.
He is facing 47 other charges in the Yayasan Akalbudi (YAB) case – 12 for criminal breach of trust, eight for corruption and 27 for money laundering – involving tens of millions of ringgit belonging to YAB.