SHAH ALAM, May 12 — The High Court was told today that several letters lobbying for approval and continued support from Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to grant an extension to Ultra Kirana Sdn Bhd’s contract for the government’s Foreign Visa System (VLN) was necessitated by the need to circumvent bureaucracy.
UKSB director Datuk Fadzil Ahmad, who is also the prosecution’s 14th witness, testified as such during Ahmad Zahid’s VLN corruption trial.
Fadzil was earlier asked to explain why the company had directly addressed former Home Minister Ahmad Zahid in its correspondence made between February 2016 and June 2017.
“The absolute authority to make a decision (on any contract extension) is vested within the minister.
“We at UKSB acted accordingly to directly address our letters (to the minister) because we were of the view that acting in a ‘top-down’ manner would expedite our application for a contract extension.
“If we relayed it to the officers in the ministry, we were worried of time constraints,” he said during examination-in-chief by deputy public prosecutor Zander Lim Wai Keong.
In his witness statement, Fadzil had affirmed several letters he had signed to Ahmad Zahid between February 2016 and June 2017 to seek support, consideration and approval for a contract extension to maintain the existing contractual agreement to supply the VLN for use by the government.
At the time, UKSB had already entered into an agreement with the Malaysian government in 2012 to provide Visa Facilitation Services by operating several One Stop Centres (OSC) in the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
According to the initial agreement, the company’s service contract for the VLN management ran from February 2013 until October 2019 over a span of six years.
Fadzil further noted that the letters he had signed addressed to Ahmad Zahid between February 2016 and June 2017 in seeking support and consideration for a contract extension to maintain the existing contractual agreement to supply the VLN for use by the government would be relayed through his colleague, Wan Quoris Shah Wan Abdul Ghani.
According to Fadzil, Wan Quoris Shah is also one of UKSB’s director and is tasked with acting as an intermediary between the company and Ahmad Zahid.
However, Fadzil later admitted that he had no knowledge of whether Wan Quoris had personally delivered the letters he had prepared.
Previously, the High Court had heard that Ahmad Zahid Hamidi met with a UKSB representative (revealed to be Wan Quoris) at his house in Seri Satria, Putrajaya before making a decision to extend the company’s contract for the VLN for three more years.
The court was also then told that the former deputy prime minister also rejected the proposal of the Home Ministry Immigration Affairs division to take the matter to the Public-Private Partnership Unit (UKAS).
UKAS is a central government agency with the role of facilitating and ensuring compliance of strategic partnerships between the public and private sectors, through the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) programme.
In Fadzil’s examination-in-chief, he explained that the company made the decision to shorten the proposed contract extension period from six years to three years instead to avoid being the subject of scrutiny by UKAS.
Ahmad Zahid is facing 33 charges of receiving bribes amounting to S$13.56 million (RM42 million) from UKSB as an inducement for himself in his capacity as a civil servant and the then home minister to extend the contract of the company as the operator of the OSCs in China and the VLN system as well as to maintain the agreement to supply VLN integrated system paraphernalia to the same company by the Home Ministry.
For another seven counts, Ahmad Zahid was charged as home minister to have obtained for himself S$1,150,000, RM3 million, €15,000 and US$15,000 in cash from the same company in connection with his official work.
The trial before Judge Datuk Mohd Yazid Mustafa continues May 17.