Malaysian prosecutors rest case in corruption trial of Umno president Zahid

Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi faces 47 charges involving criminal breach of trust, receiving bribes and money-laundering. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The prosecution in the graft trial of Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi concluded its case on Friday (March 19), with the defence attempting to paint the charges as political persecution.

Zahid faces 47 charges involving criminal breach of trust, receiving bribes and money-laundering revolving around tens of millions of ringgit linked to the charity foundation Yayasan Akalbudi in which he is a trustee.

The prosecution concluded its case after the 99th witness, investigating officer Khairudin Kilau from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), was released from the stand on Friday after testifying for three days.

The hearing lasted for 53 days and had involved several disruptions and postponements due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Raja Rozela Raja Toran told the High Court that the prosecution has rested its case and offered 37 witnesses to the defence if Zahid is called to enter his defence.

The case is closely watched because it involves Umno's president, who was formerly Malaysia's powerful deputy prime minister and home minister.

Two senior Umno leaders were found guilty in separate corruption cases last year.

Former prime minister Najib Razak, who was also a former Umno president, was in July last year sentenced to 12 years in jail and a fine of RM210 million (S$68 million) in a case involving a former company under state fund 1MDB. He is out on bail pending an appeal to the Court of Appeal.

In December, former Cabinet minister and ex-Umno treasurer-general, Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, was found guilty of using public office to receive gratification - for accepting RM2 million from a businessman in 2016. Tengku Adnan was also fined RM2 million for the offence. The imprisonment and fine were stayed pending his appeals with higher courts.

In another separate case, Najib's wife Rosmah Mansor was last month ordered by a court to defend herself against allegations of accepting RM6.5 million in bribes and soliciting a RM187.5 million bribe in relation to a project in rural Sarawak.

On Friday, Zahid's lead defence lawyer, Mr Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, suggested while cross-examining MACC officer Khairudin that the politician is being prosecuted for political reasons, as he was charged after the Pakatan Harapan coalition took over as federal government in 2018.

Mr Khairuddin said he disagreed with the lawyer.

Zahid on Oct 19 and Dec 14, 2018, and again on Feb 20, 2019, claimed trial to the 47 charges: 12 for criminal breach of trust, eight for bribery and 27 for money laundering.

Mr Hisyam suggested that all the 47 charges against Zahid had no basis in fact or in law, but Mr Khairudin again disagreed.

Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah ordered the two parties to file their written submissions by May 28 and their reply to the written submissions by June 11.

The court also fixed June 28 to 30 and July 1 and 2 for oral submissions.

The judge will later decide whether Zahid will need to enter his defence.

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