Former Malaysian deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has claimed trial to seven corruption charges involving $4.24 million that he allegedly received in kickbacks from the operator of the foreign visa system when he was home minister.
The 66-year-old Umno president is expected to appear in the Shah Alam Sessions Court again today in connection with another 33 charges related to the same case.
That will bring the number of charges he is facing to 87.
He previously claimed trial to 47 counts of criminal breach of trust involving his family-run foundation Yayasan Akal Budi, money laundering and bribery.
The charges reflected the steep fall suffered by Zahid, who was early last year widely regarded as Malaysia's next prime minister after Najib Razak.
Former premier Najib himself is facing a slew of corruption and related charges, involving state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad and its former subsidiary SRC International.
Zahid took over from Najib as Umno president in May last year, days after the Umno-led Barisan Nasional lost power in the general election. But in December, Zahid was forced to go on leave to avoid more MPs and assemblymen leaving Umno due to his underwhelming leadership.
The Malay nationalist party is now helmed by deputy president Mohamad Hasan, and Zahid is so far not expected to return to his party position.
According to the charge sheets yesterday, Zahid received the bribes in Singapore dollars, totalling $4.24 million, from a company called Ultra Kirana to reward him for extending its contract as the operator of a one-stop centre in China for the Sistem Visa Luar Negara.
He is accused of committing the offences at Seri Satria, the official residence of the deputy prime minister, in Putrajaya between March 28, 2017 and March 2 last year.
Zahid faces a maximum of 20 years in jail and a fine of RM10,000 (S$3,270) or five times the amount of the bribe, whichever is higher, if convicted. He has pleaded not guilty to all counts.
Responding to the latest charges, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) said the government should decide on whether to press charges against Ultra Kirana for allegedly bribing the former deputy prime minister.
MACC chief Latheefa Koya told reporters: "We leave it to the government. What is important now is that we prove that these (corruption charges against Zahid) happened and bring the accused to court."