High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah will be making a site visit to two “bungalows” in Country Heights, Selangor bought in 2017 with RM5.9 million of funds belonging to the charity Yayasan Akalbudi as part of Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s ongoing corruption and money laundering trial.
During hearing this morning, defence lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik invited the judge to make a site inspection since the two properties are the subject matter of one of the 27 money laundering charges against Ahmad Zahid.
“A lot has been said about the bungalows, perhaps we invite Yang Arif to have a site visit of the two bungalows and Yayasan Al-Falah,” Hisyam said.
However, Datuk Raja Rozela Raja Toran, who is leading the prosecution argued against a site visit, saying it was unnecessary as photos of the two properties could be produced in court.
“But for us to actually take the trip, it’s not really about what renovation, there was a purchase, I think I would decline the invitation to visit the bungalow lots. It’s not necessary,” she said.
But Hisyam insisted.
“It’s important for Your Lordship to visit the said site because issues have been raised on this point, and to give clear picture to My Lord as regards the current status of both pieces of land, then My Lord will be able to visualise where the surau is, the location, the distance of both bungalow lots to the mosque in question,” he said.
Raja Rozela then suggested that the site visit be arranged for dates that would not clash with the trial hearing in court if the judge believed it to be necessary.
“I think in the interest of justice, I think I would accede to the request for a site visit, but we can always fix that for another time. We can arrange the dates later,” he said.
During cross-examination today, Ahmad Zahid was asked to described the two Country Heights properties bought with Yayasan Alkalbudi’s money and said they were far from his own house that is in the same neighbourhood.
The former deputy prime minister said they were as “adjacent” to or at a “walking distance” from Surau An-Nur in Country Heights, which he described as the Islamic centre of the neighbourhood.
He first suggested a site inspection of the two properties by the court so they could make a personal assessment on the locations in yesterday’s hearing.
“I ask the court to visit the houses, to see whether it is residence or pusat maahad tahfiz,” the Umno president said yesterday.
Previously, Ahmad Zahid said the two lots of land with houses or two “bungalows” already built on them were purchased for the purpose of setting up a Quran studies centre for retirees and for tahfiz students who wish to learn and memorise the Quran.
Bungalows in the UK and other parts of the world typically refer to a small single storey house but in Malaysia and Singapore have evolved to refer to detached houses with more than one storey.
Ahmad Zahid is facing 47 charges, namely 12 counts of criminal breach of trust in relation to RM31 million of charitable foundation Yayasan Akalbudi’s funds, 27 counts of money-laundering, and eight counts of bribery charges.
One of the 27 money-laundering charges that Ahmad Zahid is facing alleges that he had engaged directly in a transaction that involves proceeds of unlawful activity, by giving instruction to buy the two “bungalow lots” for RM5.9 million using a cheque issued by the law firm Lewis & Co via a client account at Maybank, with the funds said to be illegal proceeds.
Throughout the trial, Ahmad Zahid and his lawyers have insisted that Lewis & Co is a trustee for Yayasan Akalbudi and holds funds on trust for it in a client account.
Yayasan Akalbudi was formed with the aim of eradicating poverty and helping the poor, and Ahmad Zahid is a trustee of the foundation and also its sole signatory for cheques.