No reason to report RM76.9mil from Zahid, as it was legit, says lawyer

Lawyer B Muralidharan says the money from Ahmad Zahid Hamidi for Yayasan Al-Falah was ‘accountable and transparent’.

KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court in Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s corruption trial today heard that legal firm Lewis & Co did not find it necessary to report to the authorities when it received RM76.9 million over two years from the then deputy prime minister.

B Muralidharan, a partner of Lewis & Co, said the money from Zahid for Yayasan Al-Falah was accountable and transparent.

“A red file opened for this purpose can be audited internally and externally,” the lawyer said when cross-examined by Zahid’s counsel Hisyam Teh Poh Teik .

The lawyer said his legal firm had also given a letter of undertaking to a bank where the RM76.9 million was deposited that they had identified their client and the source of the funds.

This is required under the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act 2001 (AMLATFA).

“We were satisfied that the funds were contributed for religious and charitable purposes,” the 87th prosecution witness said to a question posed by Hisyam.

Muralidharan said he found no reason to write to Bank Negara Malaysia as the money was from legitimate sources.

“The funds were from clear and legitimate sources and for this reason also we did not write to the central bank to say our client was involved in money laundering activities.” he said.

The lawyer two days ago told the court that 92 cheques totalling RM76.9 million were sent to the legal firm between May 20, 2016 and April 9, 2018.

He had said that his client was Yayasan Al-Falah.

The trustee of Al-Falah is Zahid’s brother, Mohamad Nasaee Ahmad Tarmizi.

Zahid is a trustee of another foundation, Yayasan Akal Budi.

Muralidharan said both foundations were separate entities and that Zahid was not his client.

“He is not our client though the money was sent by him for Al-Falah,” he said.

Hisham: Were you taking instruction from a stranger (Zahid)?

Muralidharan: No.

The witness agreed with Hisyam’s suggestion that generally a stranger had no capacity to give instructions.

Hisham: I put it to you , Zahid is a stranger

Muralidharan: I disagree.

He said he did not have any letter saying that Zahid was acting for Al-Falah when the money came from the accused.

He also dismissed a suggestion by Hisyam that Nasaee was aware that the instruction to put the money into Al-Falah came from Zahid.

Earlier, Muralidharan, when examined by deputy public prosecutor Lee Keng Fatt, said he had verified with Zahid when the cheques were sent to him before they were banked in.

Muralidharan, however, said he did not receive any accompanying letter of donation when the cheques were received.

Zahid faces 12 charges of criminal breach of trust, eight of corruption and 27 of money laundering totalling RM117 million.

The hearing before judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah has been adjourned to Aug 24.