VLN Corruption Trial: Zahid just following Najib’s orders, court told

By BERNAMA

SHAH ALAM — The High Court today was told that Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was just following the orders of former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, to extend the contract of Ultra Kirana Sdn Bhd (UKSB) as the sole operator of the Foreign Visa System (VLN) to Malaysia in China.

Former Home Ministry deputy secretary-general (Policy and Control), Datuk Suriani Ahmad, said that this was based on minutes jotted down by Najib, dated May 23, 2013, sent to Ahmad Zahid, stating ‘projek ini perlu diteruskan’ (the project needs to be continued)’.

Asked by lawyer Hamidi Mohd Noh, who represented the former deputy prime minister, based on the minutes which stated that ‘the project should be continued’, under whose order? Suriani replied: “Order from Prime Minister.”

When referred to another minute, dated Jan 20, 2014, by the lawyer, Suriani said: “The minute states ‘YB Datuk Sri Zahid, Please Help in this Matter. This contract needs to be continued.’

Hamidi: Those were the words from the Prime Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister?

Suriani: Correct

Suriani also agreed with Hamidi that she would carry out the instructions if asked by her superior, Tan Sri Alwi Ibrahim, who was the Home Ministry secretary-general at the time.

Earlier, second prosecution witness, former principal assistant secretary at the Immigration Affairs Division of the Home Ministry, Azman Azra Abdul Rahman @ Md Salleh, told the court that UKSB had sent several letters to Najib requesting his consideration to retain the company as the sole operator of visa management to Malaysia in China.

When asked by deputy public prosecutor (DPP), Gan Peng Kun, during the cross-examination, of the minutes received by the Home Ministry from Ahmad Zahid regarding the extension of the VLN contract, the fourth prosecution witness explained that it was done in a hurry.

“The ministry’s stance was that if it agreed to grant the extension, it would be made in a hurry because the contract was still running and there was still plenty of time before it expired. That’s why I think there should be time and space to make an assessment first.

“The contract had yet to expire. There were still three years (until it expired). Three more years to make an assessment (for contract extension). That was the position of the ministry,” he said.

Meanwhile, the fifth prosecution witness, former Prime Minister’s Department’s Cabinet, Constitution and Inter-Government Relation Division’s assistant secretary, Sheeba Kunhmon, 48, told the court that Ahmad Zahid received a salary and allowance amounting to RM44,383.15 per month, from 2015 to 2018, while serving as Deputy Prime Minister.

“While holding the post from 2015 to 2018, Ahmad Zahid received RM18,168.15 a month and allowance of RM26,215.

“As a federal minister (Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Defence Minister and Home Minister), between 2008 and 2015, he received RM14,907.20 in salary, with RM24,320 as an allowance,” she said when reading her witness statement during examination-in-chief by DPP Zander Lim Wai Keong .

When asked by Lim about the source of salary received by Ahmad Zahid, Sheeba replied: “From the Malaysian government.”

Ahmad Zahid, 68, is charged with 33 counts of receiving bribes amounting to SGD13.56 million from Ultra Kirana Sdn Bhd, as an inducement for himself in his capacity as a civil servant, then as Home Minister, to extend the contract of the company as the operator of a One Stop Centre (OSC) service in China, and the VLN system, as well as to maintain the contract to supply the VLN integrated system paraphernalia to the same company by the Home Ministry.

On seven other charges, Ahmad Zahid was charged, in his capacity as Home Minister then, for accepting SGD1,150,000, RM3,000,000, EURO15,000, and USD15,000 without consideration from the same company, which he knew had a connection with his function.

The trial, before Judge Datuk Mohd Yazid Mustafa, continues Dec 20.