A busy and riveting year at the courts

by RAHIMI YUNUS/ pic by BERNAMA & TMR FILE

THE year 2019 was a time when all eyes were on the courts with various high profile trials involving influential names including former ex-Prime Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak (picture; above) and his former deputy Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Also in the spotlight were former Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, former Sabah Chief Minister (CM) Tan Sri Musa Aman, Kinabatangan MP Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin and former Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) chairman Tan Sri Mohd Isa Abdul Samad.

Journalists were kept on the hop throughout the year, with hardly a dry week, as revelations upon revelations were shared inside the courtroom, much to the bemusement of the public.

The Malaysian Reserve looks at some of the legal proceedings that made the headlines this year.

From Putrajaya to Witness Box

The former PM made a bold move to take the witness stand in his defence in the SRC International Sdn Bhd trial. Najib, who was not acquitted from all the charges related to the embezzlement of SRC International’s RM42 million, was called to testify as the first defence witness at the Kuala Lumpur (KL) High Court.

Throughout seven days on the witness stand, the former SRC International advisor emeritus had largely said that he was not involved in the operational matters of the company.

Najib also claimed that his signature on documents related to SRC International might have been forged despite having previously been verified by him during the investigations.

The SRC International trial is scheduled to continue on Jan 6 next year until the end of February.

The KL High Court had vacated the dates for Najib and former Treasury secretary general Tan Sri Dr Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah’s joint trial on the misappropriated RM6.6 billion government funds to give way to the SRC International case.

Meanwhile, the case management on 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) audit tampering trial involving Najib and former 1MDB CEO Arul Kanda Kandasamy is set on Jan 9.

Ahmad Zahid and Akalbudi Affairs

Najib’s former deputy is facing 47 charges involving RM31 million belonging to Yayasan Akalbudi, a foundation that he chairs.

The prosecution said not a single sen out of the RM31 million was used for the benefit of the poor.

The KL High Court also heard that Ahmad Zahid (picture) and his family bought 39 insurance policies for 20 vehicles that were owned by his family for over RM72,000 from Allianz General Insurance using the misappropriated fund.

Among the 20 vehicles were 18 luxury units belonging to him including a BMW X5, MINI Cooper S, Mercedes Benz CLS350, BMW 320i(A), Toyota Land Cruiser and a high-powered motorbike BMW R1200 GS.

A witness testified that the accused paid almost RM1.3 million for his four credit cards between January 2014 and January 2016, using Akalbudi’s fund, including on high-end shopping trips to the United Arab Emirates, the US and Italy. The trial has been adjourned until Feb 11, 2020.

Tengku Adnan’s Corruption Cases

Tengku Adnan’s (picture) corruption trial involving RM1 million commenced after the defence failed to recuse judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali from presiding the case.

The former Federal Territories minister’s defence submitted that the accused would not receive a fair trial because the judge may be influenced by the facts of the case or by the guilty plea of businessman Datuk Tan Eng Boon.

Tan, who is a director of a property development company, was accused of giving a bribe to Tengku Adnan to raise the plot ratio of a development on Jalan Semarak, KL, by depositing a RM1 million cheque from Pekan Nenas Industries Sdn Bhd into the latter’s bank account as gratification.

Tan pleaded guilty to the alternative charge and was fined RM1.5 million for the offence. The businessman turned prosecution witness in the case, changing the whole dynamic of the case. The court set Feb 18 to hear the corruption charges.

In another trial, the High Court ordered Tengku Adnan to enter his defence on the charge of receiving a RM2 million bribe from businessman Tan Sri Chai Kin Kong. The court fixed Jan 10 for the start of the defence’s case.

Musa’s Logging Scandal in Sabah

The former Sabah CM, who was also the Sabah Foundation Board of Trustees chairman, was alleged to have received US$50.1 million (RM207.5 million) from eight logging concessionaires as an inducement to approve logging concessions to 16 companies.

He pleaded not guilty and claimed trial to all 30 charges.

The prosecution withdrew five of the original 35 counts on corruption and amended some of the existing 30 charges.

The prosecutor said the accused was given a discharge not amounting to an acquittal for the five charges involving US$13.2 million.

Mohd Isa and Bung Moktar’s Cases

Mohd Isa has claimed trial to criminal breach of trust and corruption charges of more than RM3 million linked to a hotel purchase in Kuching, Sarawak.

The former Felda chairman allegedly obtained the bribe at Menara Felda in KL between April 29, 2014, and Dec 11, 2015.

The High Court was told that Mohd Isa did not seek approval from Felda Investment Corp Sdn Bhd’s board members to purchase the RM160 million Merdeka Palace Hotel & Suites in Kuching.

Separately, Bung Moktar (picture), who was a former non-executive chairman of Felcra Bhd, and his wife Datin Seri Zizie Izette are facing corruption charges related to RM2.8 million that was allegedly received upon the approval for Felcra to invest RM150 million in Public Mutual Bhd’s unit trust products.