WOULDN’T it be more proper for UMNO’s court cluster ringleader Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to shelve his ambition of expediting the 15th General Election (GE15) to focus on wrangling himself out of his pending corruption charges at the High Courts?
This is because as early as this Friday (Sept 23), the MP for Bagan Datuk is slated to enter his defence on 40 charges of receiving bribes from a company to extend its foreign visa system (VLN) contract.
Strategically, settling his dues with the courts seems to be a more viable option than to go for the broke by banking his hopes entirely on UMNO/Barisan Nasional (BN) emerging triumphant in GE15 which would hence allow him to be able to “call off” his pending cases.
This is because – on paper at least – there is no guarantee that UMNO/BN can repeat its feats at the four state elections held since September 2020, namely that in Sabah, Melaka, Sarawak and Johor.
Henceforth, it would sound like a better option for the former deputy prime minister and home minister to focus on the 33 charges he is facing for receiving bribes amounting to S$13.56 mil (RM42 mil) from Ultra Kirana Sdn Bhd (UKSB) as the then home minister to extend the firm’s contract as the operator of a one-stop centre in China and the VLN system as well as to maintain a contract for the supply of the VLN integrated system.
Additionally, Zahid is also accused of another seven counts of obtaining for himself S$1.15 mil, RM3 mil, 15,000 Swiss francs and US$15,000 from the same company in connection with his official duties. In fact, the RM3 mil was intended as a one-off payment to UMNO for its 2018 general election (GE14) campaign.
He is charged with committing all the offences at Seri Satria in Precinct 16, Putrajaya, and at Country Heights, Kajang, between October 2014 and March 2018.
Lead deputy public prosecutor Raja Rozela Raja Toran said Zahid received the bribes in monthly instalments between 2014 and 2018, adding that UKSB director David Tan had kept a record of all payments in a ledger.
As High Court judge Datuk Mohd Yazid Mustafa will deliver his decision after having heard 18 witnesses and reviewed 107 exhibits, Zahid’s lawyer A. Srimurugan said his client stands a chance to be acquitted without his defence being called if the judge finds that the prosecution has failed to establish a prima facie case.
On the contrary, should the judge deem that the prosecution has proven all elements of the charges beyond reasonable doubt, the Zahid will be ordered to enter his defence.
Interestingly, as the UKSB’s case hangs in the balance, the 69 year-old UMNO warlord has another pending case where he is facing 47 charges, comprising 12 for criminal breach of trust (CBT), eight for corruption and 27 for money laundering involving RM31 mil of funds belonging to Yayasan Akalbudi, a charity foundation which he had set up.
For the 12 CBT charges, Zahid is alleged to have used the funds to make payments for personal credit cards, insurance policies and licences for his personal vehicles, remittances to a law firm and contributions to the Royal Malaysian Police football association.
The charges under Section 409 of the Penal Code each carries a maximum of 20 years in jail, whipping and fine. – Sept 21, 2022
Main photo credit: Malay Mail