Zahid given discharge not amounting to acquittal

Defence counsel Hisyam Teh Poh Teik had earlier asked the court for an acquittal.

(FMT) – Deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has been granted a discharge not amounting to acquittal (DNAA) on all 47 of his corruption, criminal breach of trust (CBT) and money laundering charges after four years of trial in the High Court here.

Earlier, the prosecution applied for a DNAA, but Zahid’s defence counsel, Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, asked the court to acquit the Umno president.

Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah then declared that Zahid was discharged of all charges but not acquitted.

This means that the prosecution is at liberty to bring or continue with the case against Zahid at any time in the future based on the similar facts and evidence as in the present case.

Sequerah made the ruling after hearing submissions from the prosecution and defence.

He said the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission is still investigating the case after Zahid made representations to the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

He also said the DNAA is in view of the royal commission of inquiry formed to look into claims in former attorney-general Tommy Thomas’s controversial memoir, particularly on alleged selective prosecution.

“The representations are about 200 pages and it is justified for further examination to be conducted,” Sequerah said.

Moreover, he said, 77 days of trial had been held and 114 witnesses called to testify.

“As such, I make an order of discharge not amounting to an acquittal,” he said.

Sequerah said the court did not question the attorney-general and public prosecutor who has the power to institute and withdraw charges under Article 145(3) of the Federal Constitution and Section 254(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code at any time before judgment is passed.

He said much precious judicial time and a great amount of taxpayers’ money will also have been wasted if the prosecution decides in the near future that they will not proceed with the charges.

Earlier, deputy public prosecutor Dusuki Mokhtar said he had instructions from the attorney-general to discontinue the proceeding.

He requested that the case be classified as a DNAA as MACC is still investigating the matter and that the prosecution would need to review the outcome of the probe.

Moreover, he said, the defence had also called 15 witnesses so far.

Zahid made several representations between December last year and March this year and has raised new issues that required further probe by MACC, he said.

Dusuki said Zahid had also complained that he was charged in a “hasty” manner in 2018 despite investigations being incomplete, and asked for the trial to be halted to prevent Zahid from suffering a miscarriage of justice.

He said the court would have been aware that the Cabinet had in 2021 decided to set up an RCI to investigate the contents of Thomas’s memoir in relation to charges brought against various individuals.

“Zahid, in his representations, had also claimed that there had been selective prosecution by the previous regime. The present AG feels that both the prosecution and MACC should also look into this matter,” he said.

Dusuki said the RCI was set up to also probe allegations of breach of professional duties by those who held high office.

Hisyam said the defence was grateful to the AGC for accepting the representations, but noted that the prosecution had not given a time frame for completion of the investigations and the RCI process.

He said Zahid should be acquitted and discharged of all charges as the case has been hanging over his head since 2018.

“Under these circumstances, there are uncertainties. It is unjust and unfair for the sword of Damocles to hang over his head,” he said.

On Jan 24 last year, Sequerah ordered Zahid, 70, to enter his defence after ruling that the prosecution had established a prima facie case against him.

A total of 99 prosecution witnesses had testified in the trial which began on Nov 18, 2019.

Zahid had been standing trial on charges of money laundering and CBT involving millions from Yayasan Akalbudi, and accepting bribes for various projects during his tenure as home minister.

Twelve of the charges were for CBT, eight for corruption and the remainder for money laundering.

He began his defence in May last year. Thirteen other witnesses also gave evidence in support of his defence.

On April 10 this year, DPP Abdul Malik Ayob told Sequerah the defence had sent representations and the AGC was looking into the matter.

He said MACC was also conducting further investigations after a second round of representations, running into 200 pages, was made.