Graft trials under spotlight following federal leadership change


THE public kept a close watch on high-profile graft trials involving political leaders last week after a change in federal leadership brought scandal-hit individuals back to power.

The prosecution in Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s (picture) corruption trial failed to proceed with contempt of court against the accused after the Kuala Lumpur (KL) High Court dismissed the application following an apology by the Umno president.

Earlier, Ahmad Zahid applied for a postponement of the trial for him to attend a meeting with the newly appointed Prime Minister (PM) Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to discuss the new government’s Cabinet line-up.

The court granted the application, but later on the same day, the PM’s Office (PMO) announced that Muhyiddin did not have any political discussion or meeting with political leaders in his schedule, Bernama reported.

Despite failing to produce the invitation letter that Ahmad Zahid claimed he received from the PMO, Judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah accepted a submission by the defence that there was a misunderstanding and a wrong choice of words when seeking the adjournment.

The trial blunder caused by Ahmad Zahid could not come at a more unfortunate period than now, where all eyes are on the new administration under Muhyiddin and how the dynamic would be with the judicial system in upholding justice.

Muhyiddin was appointed as the eighth PM with backing from MPs who are under corruption trials.

As the trial continued, a witness, Dataran Maybank branch manager Leong Siew Kong testified that almost RM100 million was deposited into the accounts of Lewis & Co, the trustees of Yayasan Akalbudi belonging to Ahmad Zahid, between May 2016 and April 2018.

Ahmad Zahid is facing 47 criminal charges including 12 counts of criminal breach of trust, eight for corruption and 27 for money laundering involving RM31 million funds of Yayasan Akalbudi, chaired by the accused.

Meanwhile, Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor grabbed the national headlines last week with testimony in court saying that RM2 million is akin to just “pocket money” to him.

Tengku Adnan testified in KL High Court that RM2 million, which was deposited into his company Tadmansori Holdings Sdn Bhd by Aset Kayamas Sdn Bhd MD Tan Sri Chai Kin Kong, was not that “valuable” to him.

Tengku Adnan has been charged with receiving the RM2 million from Aset Kayamas’ Chai over land deals linked to the KL City Hall.

He, who is the Putrajaya MP as well as Umno treasurer, denied that the amount was for personal use, but rather as a political donation.

During an examination by defence counsel Datuk Tan Hock Chuan, Tengku Adnan confirmed that he made four asset declarations to the PM — in 2001, which he declared total assets valued at RM938.6 million, RM711.3 million (2006), RM691.8 million (2013) and RM782.7 million (2016).

Tengku Adnan said the written asset declarations were made when he was in the Cabinet under different PMs at the material time, namely Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in 2001, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in 2006, and Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak in 2013 and 2016.

The defence aimed to prove that Tengku Adnan did not have the intention to use the RM2 million by submitting the asset declaration documents to the court.

Former Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission chief Latheefa Koya said she had directed for an investigation to be conducted on Tengku Adnan’s wealth.

For Najib’s trial, Latheefa could not confirm whether the voice recording — allegedly involving him in an apparent 1Malaysia Development Bhd cover-up attempt — was a product of interception.

Latheefa, who was subpoenaed to testify the SRC International Sdn Bhd trial, insisted that revealing the content, which tells about illegal acts of an attorney general (AG) or the PMO, is more important than questioning the legality of the material.

Lead defence counsel Tan Sri Dr Muhammad Shafee Abdullah grilled Latheefa about how the MACC obtained the audio clips and whether a public revelation of the material was lawful.

The defence also sought to determine the authenticity and admissibility of the audio clips in court. Latheefa testified that the graft buster received nine thumb drives in an envelope with an explanatory note on Jan 3 this year.

Five days later, the MACC held a press conference and played nine recorded conversations with a total duration of 45 minutes that implied the voice of Najib, his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, and former officers Tan Sri Shukry Mohd Salleh and Datuk Amhari Efendi Nazaruddin.

Other high-ranking individuals allegedly in the conversations included ex-MACC chief Tan Sri Dzulkifli Ahmad, former Lembaga Tabung Haji chairman Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim, the United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammad Zayed Al Nahyan and Mubadala Development Co CEO Khaldoon Al-Mubarak.

Separately, a senior officer of the MACC said Prince Saud Abdul Aziz Malik Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia did not sign a statement he made to the agency in Riyadh because the prince had immunity.

The prince’s statement was allegedly linked to four letters connected to a RM2.6 billion royal Saudi donation to Najib.