Company paid RM1 mil to law firm linked to Zahid’s graft case, court told

Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is accused of CBT involving family-run Yayasan Akalbudi as well as money laundering and bribery charges during his tenure as home minister.

KUALA LUMPUR: A witness told the High Court in Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s corruption trial that his company paid over RM1 million to a legal firm implicated in the former deputy prime minister’s case.

Paul Latimer said part of the payment, made through three cheques between March 23, 2016 and April 6, 2016, was used to settle his company Cergas Murni Sdn Bhd’s “problems with gangsters” as well as for the company’s expenditure.

“We had a project to build a bridge in Klang in 2016. At that time, the ‘gangsters’ asked us for protection money.

“Omar suggested to us to issue three blank cheques, without naming the recipient, and he told us he will help us to cash the cheques,” he said, referring to his friend Omar Ali Abdullah, who works as a money changer.

Latimer said his late boss, Mohd Shariff Yaakub, and a company director, Khatijah Suleiman, signed the three cheques. He said Shariff also knew Omar.

“We did not ask how and where Omar obtained the cash. He is a money changer, so he has his own ways,” he told deputy public prosecutor Harris Ong, who asked whether he had inquired about the source of the money from Omar.

Latimer also said his company did not have a business relationship with the law firm, Lewis & Co.

“I do not know the accused (Zahid) personally except from what I read about him in newspapers,” he said.

To a question from Zahid’s lawyer, Rosal Azimin Ahmad, on whether the then deputy prime minister and home minister was involved in the issuance of cheques, he said ‘no’.

Latimer also said the issuance of the three cheques was recorded in the company’s accounts.

“Yes, there was nothing illegal with cashing the cheques. Cergas Murni was also not involved in any money laundering wrongdoing,” he said, when Rosal asked if the company kept records of its bank payments.

Another witness, Hashim Othman, told the court that his company, HRA Teguh Sdn Bhd, received a sum of RM217,000 in March 2016 from Omar.

He said the money was a “friendly loan” from the money changer, adding that a company employee, Lee Wea, informed him that Omar would deposit the cash into the company’s account.

“HRA is a construction company. We needed cash urgently at that time for some projects we were doing,” Hashim said.

He said HRA Teguh repaid RM313,000 to Lewis & Co subsequently.

“Lee Wea said our adviser (Lee Fook Khuen) instructed that the repayment be made to Lewis & Co. We do not have any business ties with the law firm,” Hashim said.

He agreed with Rosal’s suggestion that the “friendly loan” from Omar, and the subsequent repayment, did not breach any laws.

Zahid is facing 47 charges of criminal breach of trust involving family-run Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds, money laundering as well as accepting bribes for various projects during his tenure as home minister.

The hearing before High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah continues on July 14.

Fake or not? Check our quick fake news buster here.