Prosecution: Saying Zahid had no access to charity’s cheques in locked drawer just an ‘excuse’

(MMO) – The prosecution today rubbished the idea that Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi would not have noticed whether the cheques he was signing were from his personal cheque book or that of charitable foundation Yayasan Akalbudi when paying for unrelated expenses such as credit card bills, as they would have been of a different colour.

The prosecution also dismissed, as a mere “excuse”, Ahmad Zahid’s lawyer’s suggestion that he did not have access to Yayasan Akalbudi’s cheque book as it was kept under lock and key by his then executive secretary Major Mazlina Mazlan @ Ramly.

Lead prosecutor Datuk Raja Rozela Raja Toran said this while shooting down Ahmad Zahid’s lawyers’ arguments in defence of their client from criminal breach of trust charges in relation to his alleged dishonest misappropriation of Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds using multiple cheques for payments such as for personal credit card bills and vehicle insurance for personal vehicles.

Yayasan Akalbudi is a foundation registered with the Companies Commission of Malaysia for eradicating poverty and enhancing the welfare of the poor, while Ahmad Zahid is the foundation’s trustee and sole authorised signatory for cheques.

Raja Rozela noted that Ahmad Zahid’s lawyers had repeatedly said that Mazlina had full control and custody of the cheque books and had argued that this meant their client could not or did not have the liberty to access or look at the cheque books.

But Raja Rozela said that it was not a credible argument to suggest that Mazlina must have misused the cheques on her own accord, just because she had kept important documents such as the cheque books in locked drawers.

“To insist that the accused could not have any access to these cheques is just a mere excuse. I mean, the accused was her superior; he was her boss. If the accused can boss around his fellow trustees, why not the secretary?

“All he had to do was to ask Major Mazlina to open up the drawers and show him, bring him the cheque books, credit card statements for him to check.

“So our contention is Major Mazlina did not purposely hide the cheque books from him, if that is what the defence is implying, because there is no basis to draw such a conclusion.

“There is in fact evidence to show that the accused did in fact conduct spot checks at least once a year, spot checks on the cheque books and account statements,” she said.

Differently coloured cheque books

In this trial, Ahmad Zahid is facing 12 criminal breach of trust charges in relation to RM31 million of Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds, with 11 of the charges relating to the use of 50 cheques totalling RM13 million from the foundation — including RM1.3 million via 43 cheques to pay his and his wife’s credit card bills.

Ahmad Zahid’s lawyers had previously denied trying to make Mazlina a “scapegoat”, but had persisted in claiming that it was her who had allegedly made the “mistake” of using Yayasan Akalbudi cheques instead of Ahmad Zahid’s personal cheque book for the credit card payments.

Raja Rozela today however said cheque books are easily distinguishable as they come in different colours, with those from Affin Bank being blue, Maybank being yellow and CIMB Bank being pink.

She then suggested that Ahmad Zahid would have been able to notice which cheque book he was signing.

“So when the cheque is presented to him by Major Mazlina, he could have easily seen. It is not something that can be just brushed aside, you will pay attention when you sign cheques.

“And let’s not forget cheques is a valuable instrument, and he was described as a senior ex-banker. I’m sure he would have paid more attention when he signed the cheques,” she said.

Mazlina had previously as the 90th prosecution witness testified that both Yayasan Akalbudi’s Affin Bank cheque book and Ahmad Zahid’s Maybank cheque book were in her custody in a locked drawer when she worked as his executive secretary from December 2011 to May 2018.

Mazlina had previously also testified that Ahmad Zahid had approved Yayasan Akalbudi’s cheques to be used to pay for his credit card bills, and that he had never questioned or withdrawn his approval to use the foundation’s cheques for such purposes.

In this trial, Ahmad Zahid ― who is also a former home minister and the current 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.

The trial before High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah resumes on Monday.