KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 14 — The prosecution today suggested that the real reason why charitable foundation Yayasan Akalbudi’s RM17.9 million was transferred to a law firm — where it is allegedly not even a client — was for Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to help his daughter buy shares in a company that had a hotel in Bali, Indonesia.
Lead prosecutor Datuk Raja Rozela Raja Toran said this while arguing that the prosecution had proven a criminal breach of trust charge against Ahmad Zahid, who is a trustee of Yayasan Akalbudi and the sole authorised signatory for the foundation’s cheques.
The prosecution suggested that the RM17.9 million transfer from Yayasan Akalbudi’s fixed deposit accounts to the law firm Lewis & Co before the funds were eventually placed into fixed deposits was not for investment purposes, as a genuine investment would have instead seen Yayasan Akalbudi directly transferring and placing its fixed deposits in another bank if the intention was to seek higher interest rates.
Before Lewis & Co had placed the RM17.9 million received from Yayasan Akalbudi into fixed deposits, almost half of the funds or around RM8.6 million were initially used for Ahmad Zahid’s daughter Datuk Nurulhidayah’s share purchase deal before it was returned after the deal fell through and then only placed into fixed deposits.
Yayasan Akalbudi is a foundation that was set up with the stated aim of eradicating poverty and enhancing the welfare of the poor, with Ahmad Zahid’s lawyers previously having tried to suggest to prosecution witnesses that the RM8.6 million used in the deal to buy the hotel operator’s shares was an “investment” by the charitable foundation.
But Raja Rozela highlighted the timing of these two transactions, pointing out that the RM17.9 million belonging to Yayasan Akalbudi was transferred into Lewis & Co’s client account on June 28, 2016, while Lewis & Co had issued out an RM8.6 million cheque to the hotel operator Ri-Yaz Assets Sdn Bhd on June 30, 2016 — which is just two days later — on Ahmad Zahid’s instructions.
“So that is why, My Lord, our contention is that the real purpose of the RM17.9 million withdrawal was to facilitate his daughter’s bid to buy a boutique hotel in Bali.
“Now, My Lord, even if for one lovely moment we were to accept that the RM17.9 million was a form of investment by Yayasan Akalbudi, the question is, how does running a boutique hotel in Indonesia help the poor people in Malaysia? If that was to be the true purpose?” she asked.
“On that note, My Lord, we humbly submit that the prosecution has proven this charge, that the accused had dishonestly misappropriated RM17.9 million, the funds from the seven fixed deposit accounts belonging to Akalbudi,” she said.
How the RM17.9m movement started
Raja Rozela said Ahmad Zahid had in a June 23, 2016 letter gave instructions to Affin Bank to withdraw all RM17,953,191.04 (RM17.9 million) of Yayasan Akalbudi funds in seven fixed deposit accounts (which had been opened between 2013 and 2016), and for these funds to be transferred to Lewis & Co via a bankers’ cheque.
Raja Rozela said the law firm’s partner Muralidharan Balan Pillai and its accounts clerk Sothilechmy Veerapan had both confirmed receiving the RM17.9 million cheque, with the law firm having recorded this in a June 27, 2016 entry in a ledger under a file opened under Ahmad Zahid’s family’s Yayasan Al-Falah’s name.
After the RM17.9 million was credited into Lewis & Co’s Maybank client account on June 28, 2016, Raja Rozela noted that the law firm had then on June 30, 2016 issued the RM8,602,920 (RM8.6 million) cheque on Ahmad Zahid’s instructions for the planned purchase of 60 per cent of shares in hotel operator Ri-Yaz Asset.
Raja Rozela then highlighted what the law firm’s partner Muralidharan had testified in court previously, including how he said he was told that the RM8.6 million cheque was for investment purposes and the type of questions that Ahmad Zahid’s lawyers had asked this witness.
Raja Rozela said Ahmad Zahid’s lawyers had asked questions to suggest that Ahmad Zahid’s daughter was being placed in Ri-Yaz to observe the “so-called investment” of Yayasan Akalbudi through the deal to buy 60 per cent of the hotel firm’s shares, but pointed out that the sales and purchase agreement did not state that Nurulhidayah is a “proxy” for Yayasan Akalbudi to enter into the share purchase deal.
“Now from all this, I think it is made clear, the real intention behind the transfer, our submission is that the accused had intended to transfer the RM17.9 million to use it or to use part of it for his personal benefit.
“The transfer was made under the pretext of an investment by Akalbudi, but from the line of questioning, we now know the real purpose was in fact to help his daughter to buy a hotel in Bali,” she said.
In this trial, Ahmad Zahid ― who is also a former home 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.
The trial before High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah resumes tomorrow.