Zahid gets passports back permanently

DPP Abdul Malik Ayob tells Court of Appeal bench he has instructions not to object to the application.

(FMT) – Deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is facing 47 corruption charges in the Kuala Lumpur High Court, can now travel overseas without the court’s permission.

This follows the Court of Appeal’s ruling today allowing the Umno president to keep his personal and diplomatic passports with him permanently.

A three-member bench chaired by Justice Hanipah Farikullah allowed Zahid’s application after the court said it was satisfied that it had jurisdiction to hear the matter.

“The application for the passports to be released to him is allowed,” she said.

Deputy public prosecutor Abdul Malik Ayob told the bench he had instructions not to object to the application.

Zahid’s lead counsel, Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, later told reporters today’s ruling meant his client no longer needs to get the High Court’s permission to leave the country.

Zahid made a fresh application on Feb 13 after trial judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah refused to vary the conditions of his bail to allow him possession of his travel documents.

In the application, Zahid, who is also the rural and regional development minister, said the passports should be returned to him due to a change in circumstances after the 15th general election last November.

He said that as a deputy prime minister and a minister, he needed his passports for his official duties.

He also said he was not a flight risk, and that the prosecution had no objections to the application.

“I have posted a RM2 million bail and have adhered to all other bail conditions,” he said, adding that he has also given an undertaking to be present for trial on the scheduled dates.

Before Sequerah, Zahid had applied to set aside a condition in his bail which required him to surrender his personal passport to the court to be impounded pending the disposal of his ongoing criminal case.

Sequerah dismissed the application on Feb 3.

However, the judge allowed Zahid’s passport to be released to him temporarily to enable him to apply for a diplomatic passport, which must also be kept by the court.

Sequerah said Zahid was not entitled to have the passports in his possession as all accused persons were equal under the law.

That decision meant Zahid would have to obtain the court’s approval for any overseas travel.

Zahid is accused of 47 counts of money laundering and criminal breach of trust (CBT) involving millions of ringgit from Yayasan Akalbudi and accepting bribes for various projects during his tenure as the home minister between 2013 and 2018.

Twelve of the charges are for CBT, eight for corruption and the remaining 27 for money laundering.

The hearing, at the defence stage, will resume on April 10.