KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 5 — Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was the one who allegedly created a scheme to launder illegal funds, and who used the services of a money changer who helped convert millions of ringgit in bags of cash into cheques, the prosecution argued in the High Court today.
The prosecution said that the “disappearance” of the cash into cheques were then later sent to a law firm to be placed in fixed deposits in the bank, arguing that the complex mixture of funds from various other illegal activities that were channelled into the fixed deposits would then result in Ahmad Zahid being able to tap into the funds.
In this trial, Ahmad Zahid is facing 27 money laundering charges relating to funds allegedly from unlawful activities, including 25 charges involving his alleged instructions to law firm Lewis & Co on 25 separate occasions to put over RM53 million into fixed deposit accounts.
The 26th charge is over Ahmad Zahid’s alleged instructions to buy two bungalows worth RM5.9 million via a cheque involving unlawful funds, while the 27th charge involves his alleged instructions to moneychanger Omar Ali Abdullah to convert RM7.5 million of illegal funds into 35 cheques that were then given to the same law firm to be placed in fixed deposits.
Deputy public prosecutor Harris Ong Mohd Jeffery Ong today suggested that the alleged money laundering activities under all 27 charges are interrelated, and argued that the High Court should look at the flow of these funds in the context of Ahmad Zahid standing to have the most benefit.
“For today’s charges, we are looking for the enjoyment of the illegal proceeds. In the end, who benefits the most? For example, Omar Ali might receive some commission but in the end all the money converted into cash and ended up in Lewis & Co, ended up as fixed deposits which the accused will have power to dispose of the fixed deposits.
“We have evidence how the accused demonstrated that he could use fixed deposits by way of purchase of two units of bungalows. It is important to look at how the money-laundering charges interact with each other.
“The way how money is mingled around to be cashed in together, to be applied to buy fixed deposits, it clearly shows the whole scheme is money laundering orchestrated by the accused,” Harris said, referring to Ahmad Zahid as the accused.
Among other things, Harris had spoken about Omar Ali’s role in Ahmad Zahid’s alleged money-laundering scheme, describing Omar Ali — whose wife is from the same hometown as Ahmad Zahid — as being a man on a mission to help convert the cash into cheques.
Harris urged the High Court to consider the whole chain of events starting from Ahmad Zahid’s alleged instructions to Omar Ali, the method in which cash was delivered to Omar Ali and the latter’s subsequent conversion of RM7.5 million cash into cheques, and Ahmad Zahid’s acceptance of all the “suspicious cheques” from Omar Ali and how it ended up in the law firm Lewis & Co.
Omar Ali, who was the 81th prosecution witness in this trial, had previously testified that multiple unknown individuals that Ahmad Zahid had told him were from Yayasan Al Bukhary had handed him cash at a shopping mall and hotel lobbies, with the first involving a piece of luggage which he recalled had cash possibly in the range of RM1.5 million.
“I further submit that the evidence of Omar Ali’s action in converting the cash should be weighed and considered not in isolation, but with careful care in the light of money laundering schemes operated by the accused.
“Omar Ali is on the mission. He needs to think fast, act smooth, make sure all the cash money disappears and finally deliver the ‘proceeds’ to the accused according to the plan,” Harris said.
In this trial, Ahmad Zahid ― who is a former deputy prime 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 resumes tomorrow morning, with the prosecution expected to present further arguments on why Ahmad Zahid should not be released from the money-laundering charges and why he should be called to enter his defence on these charges.
MORE TO COME