September 23, 2022
SINGAPORE – Malaysia’s High Court has acquitted former deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi of graft charges linked to a visa scheme.
Shah Alam High Court judge Mohd Yazid Mustafa made the order for a discharge and acquittal on Friday, saying that the prosecution has failed to prove its case.
Zahid was facing 33 counts of allegedly receiving S$13.56 million (RM43.39 million) from UKSB to extend the company’s contract to operate a one-stop service centre in China and the foreign visa system, as well as maintaining its contract with the Home Ministry to be the supplier of the system.
The 69-year-old politician also faced seven bribery charges for receiving bribes when he was the home affairs minister. He was alleged to have obtained bribes denominated in different currencies comprising S$1.15 million, RM3 million (S$931,586), €15,000 (S$20,935) and US$15,000 (S$21,282) from UKSB.
While Zahid remains on trial for another set of corruption charges currently ongoing at the High Court, his discharge could strengthen his position as Umno chief and spur his faction’s push for an early election to be called this year.
This trial began on May 24, 2021 with 18 prosecution witnesses testifying, including senior officers of the Home Ministry and UKSB directors.
During the trial, the defence had alleged that their client was a victim of a political prosecution, casting doubts on the testimonies given by some witnesses, as some facts appeared to have been omitted from their statements.
The prosecution, however, had argued that the court had no jurisdiction to decide on the issue, and that the witnesses had voluntarily come forward to testify that Zahid had received the money.
The acquittal does not mean Zahid’s troubles are over. He is still standing trial on 47 charges: 12 for criminal breach of trust in relation to more than RM31 million of charitable foundation Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds, 27 counts of money laundering and eight counts of bribery involving RM21.25 million.
The charges, under Section 409 of the Penal Code, each carries a sentence of up to 20 years in jail, whipping and fine.
The trial is currently ongoing and scheduled to end in November.