MACC officer tells court that RM13m cheques given to Zahid were not ‘donations’, rejects idea that bribes must be given via cash

(MMO) – Cheques worth RM13 million that were received by Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as home minister in 2017 could not have been “donations”, the prosecution’s 92nd witness said in the Umno leader’s corruption trial in High Court here today.

Mohd Zamri Abdul Rashid, an investigator with Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), explained that the companies that gave the funds were not even operating as businesses at that time.

He also dismissed the idea that bribery and corruption could only take place via cash transactions, adding that fund transfers through banks have been used in corruption cases.

The MACC officer was testifying about his investigations on bribes alleged to have been given to Zahid in 2016 and 2017 via businessman Junaith Asharab Md Shariff in the form of a RM250,000 cheque issued by Jogabonito Jewellery & Diamonds, 13 cheques worth RM8 million issued by Mastoro Kenny IT Consultant & Services, and 10 cheques worth RM5 million from Berani & Jujur Trading.

Mohd Zamri said the RM250,000 cheque was given by Junaith to Zahid’s younger brother Datuk Seri Mohamad Nasaee Ahmad Tarmizi in July 2016 at the latter’s office in Cyberjaya.

He added that Junaith had in 2017 personally handed over the cheques totalling RM8 million and RM5 million to Zahid at the latter’s Country Heights residence with Nasaee present.

But Zahid’s lawyer Hamidi Mohd Noh tried to suggest that the RM13.25 million worth of cheques issued by the three companies were actually “donations” given to Yayasan Akalbudi — a charitable foundation owned by Zahid — and deposited into law firm Lewis & Co’s client account to be held on trust.

But Zahid’s lawyer Hamidi Mohd Noh tried to suggest that the RM13.25 million worth of cheques issued by the three companies were actually “donations” given to Yayasan Akalbudi — a welfare foundation owned by Zahid — and deposited into law firm Lewis & Co’s client account to be held on trust.

Hamidi: I suggest that is the actual fact, this money is donation money given to Yayasan Akalbudi, do you agree or not?

Mohd Zamri: Disagree.

Hamidi: Because it is in the form of donations, that’s why it was given via cheques. Secondly it was deposited into a trustee account, that’s why it’s a donation. Do you agree or not?

Mohd Zamri: Disagree.

Hamidi went on to suggest that it would be “careless” to use techniques such as depositing cheques into a trustee account to cover up bribery, saying that no recipient of bribes who are “clever” would use such a technique, further suggesting that this was why it was impossible for the RM13.25 million cheques to be bribes.

But the witness continued to disagree, including to the suggestion that Lewis and Co is a trustee of Yayasan Akalbudi which is Zahid-owned.

At one point, Hamidi also suggested that the RM13.25 million cheques from the three companies were “donations” to Yayasan Akalbudi for the purposes of charity and Islam, but Mohd Zamri disagreed.

Under questioning by deputy public prosecutor Mohd Afif Ali, Mohd Zamri said that the Lewis & Co client account in this case meant that funds were given by Zahid to the law firm and that the law firm cannot do anything with the funds without receiving instructions from Zahid.

Asked to explain why he disagreed with the idea that bribery would not occur through bank deposits, Mohd Zamri who has been with MACC since 2011 replied: “I did not agree with the defence counsel, because based on investigations, my experience There are also bribery cases that occur through transfers into accounts, there are also those that happened through cash and there are those that happened through deposits into bank accounts.”

He also confirmed that no receipts were issued to state that the RM13.25 million cheques were “donations”.

When another deputy public prosecutor Ahmad Sazilee Abdul Khairi asked, Mohd Zamri confirmed he had carried out investigations on the financial status of the three companies Jogabonito, Mastoro Kenny and Berani & Jujur Trading after the cheques were issued and banked in.

“Based on my investigations on the finances of Berani & Jujur, Mastoro Kenny and Jogabonito. About Berani & Jujur, it was found this company does not have a company, does not have workers, was registered at an apartment address, but the value of money going in and out of the account is too active with quite big sums.

“If it is referred to the Companies Commission of Malaysia, it is involved in agriculture business, and based on the witness who said it is selling textile, but based on the checks on finances, the influx and outflow of money is too active,” the MACC officer said.

Asked if the stated business activities were actually carried out by Berani & Jujur, Mohd Zamri replied: “Investigations show that the textile selling does not exist, the raid of the premises shows there is no business carried out in that apartment.

Mohd Zamri said that MACC’s investigations also showed that the two other companies Mastoro Kenny and Jogabonito similarly were not carrying out business activities at the apartments that they were registered at.

Malay Mail’s previous checks in October 2018 of the Companies Commission of Malaysia’s records on the three companies showed that they were registered at three different units at three different apartments in Kuala Lumpur.

No bias in investigations

Earlier, Hamidi had questioned Mohd Zamri’s appointment on October 8, 2018 to be the investigating officer for bribery allegations under Section 16(a)(B) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act against Zahid, as well as how Zahid had been charged in court just 11 days later on October 19, 2018.

Asked by Hamidi, Mohd Zamri agreed that he had only received copies of the RM13.25 million cheques from banks prior to Zahid being charged, and that he had then received the original cheques as well as bank account statements for the three companies from banks after Zahid was charged.

Hamidi also suggested that Mohd Zamri was “biased” as Zahid was charged after 11 days of his appointment as investigating officer and as investigations had continued after Zahid was charged, but the MACC officer disagreed and said he had investigated based on facts obtained during investigations.

However, when asked by the prosecution’s Mohd Afif, MACC investigator Mohd Zamri explained that Zahid was not charged after just 11 days of investigation, explaining that months of preliminary investigation work had already been carried out by MACC previously.

“Investigations on Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi started in June 2018, where in the preliminary stages, we had collected documents related to Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. And among the documents that we obtained, on September 6, 2018, I went to Lewis & Co to get documents related to the investigation.

“And this investigation did not take 11 days. From the preliminary stage, we had already obtained documents,” he said.

But due to Zahid’s case involving multiple companies and multiple offences, the MACC had on October 8, 2018 officially appointed Mohd Zamri to be the investigating officer to specifically investigate matters related to the RM13.25 million cheques.

Mohd Zamri said the investigation papers were completed 11 days later and Zahid was then charged in court, but again reiterated: “It’s not that the investigations were done in 11 days, because the investigations had started earlier, in June 2018.”

“I disagree that the investigations were biased, because investigations had started in June 2018 and I collected facts until the charges were pressed, and I’m confident that the charges were made based on those facts and are not biased in nature,” he also said at another point.

Asked by Mohd Afif to explain why he had agreed that investigations had continued after Zahid was charged, the MACC officer explained that he had meant that the provision of original bank documents by the banks had continued later on.

“What I meant by investigations still going on is that in the preliminary stages of investigation, the investigation only obtained copies of the cheques, while the original cheques were at the banks involved. Therefore after the charges were pressed, the collection of evidence at the banks were obtained subsequently, that’s what I meant with the investigation still being ongoing, as the application to collect the original cheques requires time to obtain,” Mohd Zamri explained.

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.