MACC investigator confirms businessman gave Zahid RM2m cheques, but Zahid’s lawyer objects, claims hearsay

Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court Complex August 12, 2020. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court Complex August 12, 2020. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 24 — Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s lawyer today objected to a Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) investigator’s written testimony in court about the results of an investigation into RM2 million worth of cheques that a businessman had given the then deputy prime minister in 2017 and 2018.

Zahid’s defence lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik instead sought to challenge MACC investigator Fairul Rafiq Hamirudin’s testimony in court as allegedly being based on “hearsay”, arguing that such testimony should not be presented as evidence in Zahid’s trial over alleged corruption and money laundering.

“Before we continue further, the defence would like to object to certain paragraphs in the witness statement — paragraphs 20, 27, 29, 33, 34, 35, 37 — on the basis that these paragraphs are prejudicial to the defence,” Hisyam told the High Court, arguing that the MACC investigator should not be making his “own conclusion or opinions” as a witness in Zahid’s trial.

“So in other words, we don’t agree to these paragraphs of the witness statement,” he said.

However, deputy public prosecutor Gan Peng Kun pointed out that the MACC investigator was presenting the findings based on his investigation into the corruption case.

Hisyam however insisted on Zahid’s lawyers presenting arguments on whether hearsay evidence could be accepted in trial and said that there must be no reference made for now to those paragraphs in the MACC investigator’s witness statement.

Another deputy public prosecutor Datuk Raja Rozela Raja Toran argued that the MACC investigator’s testimony is not based on hearsay evidence and all the paragraphs mentioned should be maintained.

She noted that the prosecution had served the investigator’s witness testimony in court earlier to Zahid’s lawyers and that they should have had time to prepare their arguments on their allegation of hearsay.

“The witness statement has already been served in time. I’m sure the counsel has enough time to go through them, they would have been prepared for submission,” Raja Rozela said.

But Hisyam said that Zahid’s legal team would need a few days’ time to prepare arguments on the alleged hearsay evidence, and asked for the prosecution to call in other witnesses first before the court decides on whether to accept parts of the MACC investigator’s testimony for use in the trial.

The High Court then decided to continue Zahid’s trial tomorrow with another witness to be called in by the prosecution to testify, and to hear arguments from both Zahid’s lawyers and the prosecution on the hearsay issue on Friday before continuing to hear the testimony from the MACC investigator.

What the MACC investigator said

Today, MACC investigator Fairul Rafiq Hamirudin was testifying as the 89th prosecution witness regarding his findings of three Maybank cheques that Profound Radiance Sdn Bhd’s director Azlan Shah Jaffril had handed over to Zahid on three separate occasions in 2017 and 2018.

Fairul Rafiq verified that his investigations showed Azlan Shah had handed over a July 31, 2017 cheque for RM300,000 to Zahid on August 2, 2017 at the deputy prime minister’s office in Putrajaya, followed by a January 3, 2018 cheque for RM1 million given to Zahid on January 4, 2018 at the Home Ministry’s office in Putrajaya.

The third cheque dated February 9, 2018 for RM700,000 was given to Zahid on February 13, 2018 at the deputy prime minister’s official residence named Seri Satria in Putrajaya, Fairul Rafiq said today when citing his investigation results.

Fairul Rafiq said his investigations also showed that Zahid had then passed these three cheques totalling RM2 million and issued by Azlan Shah’s company Profound Radiance to law firm Lewis & Co’s Muralidharan Balan Pillai.

Fairul Rafiq also verified that all three cheques were deposited into Lewis & Co’s account, with original documents made available by prosecution witness and Maybank’s Taman Tun Dr Ismail branch assistant manager Harryade Mohamad Arbe backing such findings.

Fairul Rafiq had also said investigations had shown that Azlan Shah was appointed as Profound Radiance’s director in June 2015, and that the businessman had then met with Zahid at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia on September 19, 2015 during the latter’s son’s wedding to ask for the company to be considered to start operations in Bangladesh.

Among other things, Fairul Rafiq said that the Home Ministry had however cancelled a prior approval for Profound Radiance to carry out a one stop centre in Bangladesh due to failure to start such operations since February 2014, further noting various appeal letters in 2015 and 2016 by Azlan Shah that were minuted by then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and by then home minister Zahid himself.

The letters verified included a November 2015 letter from Profound Radiance to seek Najib’s support for reconsideration of the Bangladesh operations’ approval revocation, with Najib’s December 2015 minute to Zahid stating “Agree to be given chance if no wrongdoing done.”

The other two letters from the company were to Zahid, including a January 2016 letter that referred to the letter minuted by Najib, and with this January 2016 letter in turn carrying Zahid’s February 2016 minute to the home ministry secretary-general to ask for discussion with him and to scrutinise the minute by Najib, as well as the secretary-general’s own minute to the home ministry’s immigration division secretary to prepare immediate comments.

The last letter was a February 2016 letter to Zahid that also referred to the same letter minuted by Najib to Zahid, with this February 2016 letter carrying Zahid’s March 2016 minute or note to the home ministry’s immigration division secretary, with the note stating “Please discuss with me and see the minute from the YAB PM and give explanation to me about the actual situation”.

But before the prosecution could continue examining Fairul Rafiq’s testimony, Zahid’s lawyer Hisyam stood up to interrupt and raise his objection on subsequent paragraphs in the MACC’s investigator’s witness statement, leading to the High Court’s decision to hear the hearsay issue on Friday.

Previously, Azlan Shah as the 38th prosecution witness had denied that the RM2 million cheques he personally handed over to Zahid were bribes in exchange for contracts to operate one-stop centres abroad for processing of applications for Malaysian visas.

In this trial, Zahid ― who is a former deputy prime minister and currently the Umno president ― is facing 47 charges, namely 12 counts of criminal breach of trust in relation to charitable foundation Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds, 27 counts of money-laundering, and eight counts of bribery charges.

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