Judge rebukes lawyer for grilling former education ministry DG

Rosmah Mansor, wife of former prime minister Najib Razak.

KUALA LUMPUR: Lawyer Akberdin Abdul Kader, representing Rosmah Mansor in a corruption case involving a hybrid solar project for rural schools in Sarawak, was rebuked by High Court judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan, who is presiding over the case.

The judge was unhappy with his way of “grilling” the former education ministry’s secretary-general Alias Ahmad, who is a witness, during cross-examination today.

Alias Ahmad.

“He (Alias) is not on trial here. Be mindful of the charges,” said the judge to Akberdin, who claimed that the 12th witness had interests in the RM1.25 billion hybrid solar project.

Earlier, Akberdin questioned Alias’s action in personally contacting a former secretary at the Government Procurement Division of the finance ministry, Othman Semail, to request for it to proceed with the education ministry’s application for approval of RM130 million in advance payment for the implementation of the hybrid solar project.

Akberdin: After receiving a letter dated April 19, 2017 from the finance ministry, I put it to you that you personally made a call to Datuk Othman asking for his good office to approve the education ministry’s application for advance payment of RM130 million.

Alias: About the call (to Othman), I agree I made the call, but to talk about other matters, not about the RM130 million advance payment.

Akberdin: I put it to you that the response from Datuk Othman was that he could not entertain your request because you did not follow procedures.

Alias: I disagree.

Akberdin: I put it to you that you took extra effort and initiative, to the extent of calling Othman because you had an interest in the project.

Alias: I disagree.

Akberdin Abdul Kader.

During the previous proceedings, former secretary at the Asset Procurement and Management Division of the education ministry, Kamarudin Abdullah, had told the court that a letter, dated April 19, 2017, from the finance ministry to the education ministry, stating that the education ministry’s request for approval of the advance payment of RM130 million was being looked into.

According to Kamarudin, the finance ministry also stated in the letter that to expedite the payment process, the education ministry would need to take action, like adhering to financial procedures and regulations and to expedite the process of signing a procurement contract with the contractor of the project, Jepak Holdings Sdn Bhd.

Rosmah, 68, is facing a charge of soliciting RM187.5 million and two counts of receiving a bribe of RM6.5 million from Jepak Holdings managing director Saidi Abang Samsudin through her former aide, Rizal Mansor, as gratification for helping the company to secure the RM1.25 billion Hybrid Photovoltaic Solar System Integrated Project and Maintenance and Operation of Genset/Diesel for 369 rural schools in Sarawak, through direct negotiation with the education ministry.

She allegedly committed the offences at three places, namely Lygon Cafe at Sunway Putra Mall on Jalan Putra here; her house on Jalan Langgak Duta, Taman Duta here, and at the Seri Perdana Residence, Persiaran Seri Perdana, Presint 10, Putrajaya, between January 2016 and Sept 7, 2017.

The hearing continues on April 6.