Law firm didn’t act as ‘broker’ to get me off the hook, ex-minister tells Rosmah trial

Former education minister Mahdzir Khalid was grilled about the appointment of a law firm to represent him.

KUALA LUMPUR: Former education minister Mahdzir Khalid today told Rosmah Mansor’s corruption trial that he had appointed a law firm to seek updates on the probe into the awarding of a contract for the ministry’s solar project.

He denied that he had hired the law firm to broker a deal so that he could escape prosecution.

Mahdzir was questioned by lawyer Akberdin Abdul Kader about the appointment of the legal firm, Vignesh Kumar & Associates, in 2018, where the firm had written to the attorney-general (AG) to seek updates on the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) investigations.

Rosmah is accused of soliciting and accepting kickbacks from Saidi Abang Samsudin, managing director of Jepak Holdings Sdn Bhd, as an inducement to help the company secure the Hybrid Photovoltaic Solar System Integrated Project and Maintenance and Operation of Genset/Diesel for 369 rural schools in Sarawak, worth a total of RM1.25 billion through direct negotiations with the education ministry.

“I did appoint a lawyer for the purpose of getting an update on the investigation but I disagree with the term ‘broker’,” Mahdzir said in response to claims that it was an attempt for him to escape criminal charges and become a prosecution witness.

Co-counsel Jagjit Singh then read out the legal firm’s letter to the attorney-general, which stated that MACC had taken Mahdzir’s statement on Oct 17, 2018, and the former minister would like to co-operate with MACC and provide further statements. The letter also stated his willingness to testify as a prosecution witness.

“I only came to know about the content (of the letter) today,” Mahdzir said.

Rosmah’s defence team had repeatedly challenged Mahdzir’s evidence in court, claiming that he had also received bribes from Saidi from the project but was not prosecuted.

Rizal Mansor, Rosmah’s former aide, was initially charged with the former prime minister’s wife but he was acquitted before the trial started after the prosecution withdrew the charges against him.

To a suggestion by lawyer Azrul Zulkifli Stork on whether there are possibilities that Rizal used Rosmah’s name to exert pressure in asking the education ministry to award the solar project, Mahdzir said he could not be sure about the matter.

Azrul then asked if it was only Mahdzir’s own perception that there was a group nicknamed “Team Saidi”. Mahdzir had said several members of the group had approached him about the project.

The hearing continues before High Court judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan on Feb 17.

Ad-hoc prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram is expected to re-examine Mahdzir then.