Hundreds of Umno supporters gathered at the Kuala Lumpur Court Complex yesterday as the party's president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was charged with 45 counts of criminal breach of trust, bribery and money laundering.
Malaysia's former deputy prime minister faces 10 charges of criminal breach of trust (CBT) under Section 409 of the Penal Code, eight charges under Section 16 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009, and 27 charges under Section 4 of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001.
He is accused of CBT involving RM21 million (S$7 million), accepting bribes totalling RM21 million and money laundering involving RM72 million, with the offences committed between Jan 13, 2014, and April 11 this year.
He pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
Bail was set at RM2 million, to be paid in two instalments - RM1 million yesterday and the remaining amount to be paid before next Friday. Zahid, 65, was also asked to surrender his passport.
His wife Hamidah Khamis, who was in court yesterday, has labelled the charges against her husband as an act of vengeance. She called on Zahid's supporters - who were dressed in red, the Umno party colour - to "rise up in defence of... beloved homeland Malaysia".
She said the charges against her husband were also aimed at breaking the spirit of Umno members and erasing the former ruling party from the pages of Malaysian history.
Zahid is the latest member of the opposition to be charged with graft since the Pakatan Harapan coalition came into power in May after ending the six-decade rule of the Umno-led Barisan Nasional pact.
Former Umno president Najib Razak is facing 32 charges involving CBT, money laundering and abuse of power over billions of ringgit related to 1MDB.
The graft charges against Zahid, who is also the former home affairs minister, relate to him allegedly receiving RM21 million in bribes for awarding government contracts to companies to supply electronic government services, Malaysian passport chips and other services.
Shares of listed companies Datasonic and MyEG Services slid in morning trading yesterday, after Zahid was charged.
PARTY STANDS BY HIM
We have decided not to take any action and, instead, will staunchly support him.
UMNO SUPREME COUNCIL MEMBER AHMAD MASLAN, on the party's president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
In a statement to the stock exchange Bursa Malaysia, Datasonic said it had not made any payment to Zahid over the supply of 12.5 million chips for Malaysian passports.
MyEG requested that its shares be suspended from trading in the afternoon session after they plunged 25 per cent. MyEG later said the MACC has confirmed that neither the company nor its directors were being investigated over Zahid's corruption case.
Zahid also faces charges over RM800,000 from his charity Yayasan Akalbudi being used to pay his and his wife's credit card bills between 2014 and 2015. He has said the payments were made in error by an aide and has since settled the bills himself.
The money-laundering charges relate to RM72 million in proceeds from unlawful activities being used to buy property and invest in fixed deposits.
After paying the RM1 million bail yesterday, Zahid met his supporters outside the court complex. Some carried banners that read: "Stop political prosecution."
According to The Star, he told reporters it felt like all the charity work he had done was now regarded as a breach of the law. However, he also said the court was the best place to defend himself. He then left in a white Lexus LX 570.
Former prime minister Najib and several other Umno members were also in court to show support.
Zahid took over as Umno chief soon after the May elections, promising to lead the party's rebound. But both he and the party are struggling to adjust to their roles in the opposition, analysts say.
Umno leaders held a meeting on Wednesday evening.
"We have decided not to take any action and, instead, will staunchly support him," The Star newspaper quoted Umno Supreme Council member Ahmad Maslan as saying.
The case is scheduled for mention on Dec 14.