Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told the High Court today that the funds from Yayasan Akalbudi amounting to RM65 million allegedly received by him and transferred into the fixed deposit accounts of a legal firm was not illegal money.
Zahid, 69, said the RM65 million in cheques were contributions from individuals and corporate bodies for charity purposes.
“I wish to stress that the funds are not from illegal activities as defined by the AMLA Act (Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001),” he said, reading from his witness statement.
Zahid is defending himself on 47 charges: 12 counts of criminal breach of trust, eight counts of bribery and 27 charges of money laundering involving tens of millions of ringgit in Yayasan Akalbudi funds.
The former deputy prime minister also said he had not directed any lawyers or employees including clerk V Sothilechmy of Messrs Lewis & Co to deposit money into fixed deposit accounts.
He said Sothilechmy had confirmed in court that he received orders from lawyer B Muralidharan to deposit the funds into fixed deposit accounts.
“When I appointed Messrs Lewis & Co to manage the funds of Yayasan Akalbudi, Muralidharan told me that he would manage the funds of Yayasan Akalbudi by opening fixed deposit accounts so that the foundation would earn interest. Muralidharan also told me that he had to do so based on the law,” he said.
On the Yayasan Akalbudi funds totalling RM5.9 million, the Bagan Datuk MP said he had never given orders to Muralidharan to make payments for two lots of bungalow land in Country Heights, Kajang amounting to RM5.9 million from the fixed deposit accounts.
He said the funds of Yayasan Akalbudi were handled by Muralidharan based on his sole discretion.
“Muralidharan was the person who had control over the handling of Yayasan Akalbudi funds with knowledge of the transactions and money movements in the accounts of clients. Muralidharan had the sole discretion to determine how much funds needed to be entered into fixed deposit accounts,” he said.
Zahid also said the withdrawal of RM5.9 million from the fixed deposit accounts by Muralidharan was to pay for two lots of land for a Quran study centre for those who would be retiring as well as tahfiz students who wanted to learn and memorise the Quran, not money from illegal activities.
Zahid also said he never instructed money changer Omar Ali Abdullah to convert cash amounting to RM7,511,250.20 into 35 cheques.
“As far as I remember, when Omar Ali was called to testify in court, he himself stated that he had taken the initiative to convert the cash contributions into cheques.
“When I met with Omar Ali to discuss depositing cash into the client account of Messrs Lewis & Co, Omar Ali told me that he would use his own initiative to convert the cash into several cheques,” he said.
Zahid said he had nothing to do with the conversion of cash to cheques.
“Therefore, I would like to emphasise that the sources of cash managed by Omar Ali were contributions and donations from Yayasan Al-Bukhary. I also state that the cash managed by Omar Ali was not money from illegal activities,” he said.
The prosecution in an earlier opening statement said that the money laundering charge would be proven by showing that Zahid had received several cheques worth about RM65 million from individuals known and unknown to him.
The trial before judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah continues tomorrow.