Taking the meaning of ‘follow your leader’ to heart, several UMNO leaders have found themselves facing the same charges as those of their previous leader, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. No less than a month after the former party president and former prime minister was slapped with criminal breach of trust and money laundering charges, his second in command, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has been charged with the same.
In a number exceeding those of Najib’s 32 (with another six pending in relation to 1MDB’s dealings with Abu Dhabi’s wealth fund, International Petroleum Investment Company), the former deputy prime minister found himself facing 45 charges involving US$27.4 million (RM114 million). The charges include 10 counts of criminal breach of trust in relation to funds from Yayasan Akal Budi, a welfare foundation he chairs, and eight counts of corruption involving US$10.1 million (RM42 million).
But it doesn’t stop there. The current UMNO president was also charged with 27 counts of receiving and transferring illicit money under anti-money laundering laws. These charges involved a total of US$17.2 million (RM72 million).
As did his leader (and as expected), Ahmad Zahid also pleaded not guilty to all the charges. And in a show of solidarity, Najib sat in the courtroom throughout the hearing. Despite his charges, Ahmad Zahid smiled and waved at reporters as he walked into the courts last week. Talk about putting on a brave face.
Local media have said that he is believed to have abused about US$192,236 (RM800,000) of the foundation’s funds to settle his and his wife’s credit card bills. He has denied wrongdoing, saying the payments were made in error by an aide and that he has since repaid the amount. Okay, so let’s say it was that clumsy, noob aide’s fault. That’s the RM800,000 accounted for, where’s the remaining 99.3% (because yes, there’s still the other RM113.2 million that we didn’t conveniently forget about)?
This all as us wondering – Is it a coincidence that following Zahid’s case, those loyal to the former prime minister are being investigated for possible corruption? And if so, it will be interesting to hear whether there have been any more instances of foolhardy aides making erroneous payments. The aides of Malaysia better be on alert!
That list of Najib loyalists is now led by former Treasury secretary-general Tan Sri Mohd Irwan Serigar and is followed closely by former intelligence chief Datuk Hasanah Abdul Hamid, both of whom, according to the MACC, have committed high-level corruption. Let’s not forget former first lady Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor either, whose alleged activities have been said to involve US$1.68 million (RM6.9 million).
Irwan is expected to face charges in connection with the 1MDB scandal while Hasanah, who headed the Malaysian External Intelligence Organisation (MEIO), is expected to be charged for alleged misappropriation of funds worth US$12 million (RM49 million).
It is not yet known how many charges Irwan and Hasanah, both aged 61, will be facing. Irwan had been called up by investigators several times to be queried on the debt settlement between 1MDB and the Abu Dhabi wealth fund. His last session was on August 10.
As for Hasanah, prosecutors are expected to bring several charges against her, mostly in relation to committing criminal breach of trust. The fact that she purportedly sent a suspect letter to the Director of the CIA, Gina Haspel is peripheral. Probably. She was among nine persons arrested in connection with misappropriating funds meant for the 14th General Election.
High profile though they may be, they aren’t the only UMNO individuals in question. UMNO vice-president and former Minister of Education, Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid previously spent several hours being grilled over the case of a US$300 million (RM1.25 billion) solar energy project for Sarawak schools. Embezzlement is one thing, but to embezzle funds under the guise of advancing society is quite another.
Rounding off the list (so far) is UMNO supreme council member Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim, who has spent 10 days under remand as MACC looked into allegations of bribery and money laundering said to have been committed by the Baling MP, though it is not entirely clear what this is in relation to. In our attempts to find out more, MACC sources were understandably tight-lipped when asked if more UMNO personalities would be quizzed over further questionable activities.
Source: Channel News Asia, The Star
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