Zahid’s trial: Defence cannot effectively participate in impeachment hearing unless document declassified

The defence in Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s (picture) corruption trial involving Yayasan Akalbudi (YAB) funds cannot effectively participate in an impeachment proceeding against the third defence witness unless the prosecution declassifies a contentious statement, the High Court heard today.

The former deputy prime minister’s lead counsel Datuk Hisyam Teh Poh Teik said the three-page document containing the statement given by Syarikat Pembinaan Teknik Sempurna Sdn Bhd director Jefri Jamil, which was classified as confidential according to the Official Secrets Act (OSA), needed to be declassified.

“We can’t participate effectively. For effective participation, they (prosecution) need to declassify, so that it will be fair and just, so My Lord can direct the prosecution to give us a copy. Without that, we cannot do anything,” he said at proceedings on the classified statement.

On Sept 22, Justice Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah allowed the prosecution’s application to impeach Jefri, the third defence witness, in accordance with Section 155 of the Evidence Act 1950.

Hisyam also said the defence was relying on a 1980 case law in Lim Kit Siang against the Public Prosecutor which stated that the court has no power to create a right for any person to ignore the provisions under the OSA or any other law.

“This meant that even if the High Court judge were to order for the classified Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) statement to be presented to Zahid’s lawyers, such an order will not be valid as it could breach the OSA. Because of this, the defence lawyers would essentially not be able to participate in the impeachment proceedings,” he said.

Meanwhile, deputy public prosecutor Datuk Raja Rozela Raja Toran argued that the defence attorney did not need to participate in the proceedings as it was only between Jefri and the judge.

She said Jefri would be given an opportunity to explain why there were contradictions in the statement and the court can evaluate the statement.

Raja Rozela also said it is a misconception to view a document classified under the OSA as completely prohibited from being shown to the court.

“The OSA was meant to prevent unauthorised disclosure or unauthorised use of documents classified as an official secret and that nothing in its provisions prevented it from being produced in court as part of the proceedings.

“I’m a public officer and so is this court, and this is a judicial proceeding. By producing the OSA statement, that particular part of that statement will not make the defence liable if it is shown in court. Having possession or going against the OSA, no one will be charged for that, My Lord,” she said.

Judge Sequerah then asked the prosecution if they could declassify the MACC statement of Jefri for the impeachment proceedings, and to make a formal application to declassify the statement to the relevant authority.

Raja Rozela said she was not given the authority to declassify the document but would consider looking into it as suggested by Justice Sequerah.

The prosecution made the impeachment proceedings application when cross-examining Jefri, who testified that he had given a statement to the MACC on 2018 but could not remember the content of it.

Ahmad Zahid, 69, is facing 47 charges, namely 12 on criminal breach of trust, eight on corruption and 27 on money laundering involving tens of millions of ringgit belonging to YAB.

The proceedings continue tomorrow. – BERNAMA