Ruling party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi walks free in corruption case

Muzliza Mustafa and Iman Muttaqin Yusof
2022.09.23
Shah Alam, Malaysia
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Ruling party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi walks free in corruption case Supporters mob UMNO president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi after he was acquitted of 40 counts of graft at the Shah Alam Court complex outside Kuala Lumpur, Sept. 23, 2022.
S. Mahfuz/BenarNews

Updated at 12:34 ET on 2022-09-23

A Malaysian court on Friday acquitted Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, the president of the country’s largest party that anchors the ruling coalition, of corruption charges although he is still standing trial in a second graft-related case.

The prosecution can appeal the verdict by the Shah Alam High Court, but Zahid’s acquittal deals a blow to the political opposition, which had alleged that he was pushing for an early general election because of his court cases, according to an analyst.

After being acquitted, the United Malays National Organization party president and former deputy prime minister told reporters that he had finally gotten justice.

“I was humiliated and subjected to all sorts of allegations and punished in the court of public opinion, but today, on a Friday, justice has prevailed,” Zahid said in the courthouse lobby before leaving the premises with his wife and children.

The verdict in the trial of the United Malays National Organization president came a month to the day that the Federal Court sent UMNO giant and former Prime Minister Najib Razak to prison for 12 years after rejecting his final appeal in his corruption conviction linked to the 1MDB financial scandal.

In Friday’s ruling, Shah Alam High Court Judge Mohd Yazid Mustafa said the prosecution had failed to prove a case against Zahid on all grounds.

“I hereby acquit and discharge the accused from all charges without calling for his defense as the prosecution has failed to make out a prima facie case,” Mohd Yazid said.

The judge took more than two hours to deliver the verdict.

Zahid was accused of extending a visa-processing company’s contract in exchange for 50.56 million ringgit (U.S. $11 million) in bribes as home minister, between 2014 and 2018.

Zahid, an MP who represents the Bagan Datuk constituency in Perak state, was charged with 33 counts of allegedly receiving 43.39 million ringgit (U.S. $9.5 million) from Ultra Kirana Sdn Bhd to help extend the contract for the company’s one-stop visa processing center and foreign visa system in China.

He also faced seven other charges of allegedly taking bribes in different currencies, including in Singapore and U.S. dollars, and in euros. Zahid’s alleged offenses allegedly took place at his own private residence and at a former deputy prime minister’s official residence.

Zahid-supporters.jpg
UMNO president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi meets with supporters after his acquittal at the Shah Alam Court complex, Sept. 23, 2022. [S. Mahfuz/BenarNews]

But Zahid is still standing trial in another corruption case.

In April, he was ordered to defend himself against 47 criminal charges in the case related to the alleged misappropriation of a total of 52.25 million ringgit (U.S. $11.42 million) from his family-owned foundation, which was set up to help the economically disadvantaged.

In that trial, Zahid is accused of using the funds to make credit card and car payments.

The UMNO president has been the spotlight in recent days for more than his corruption cases. He has been stridently pushing for early elections – he wants them held this year.

Critics have alleged that Zahid’s call for early polls is related to his corruption cases, although he has vehemently denied it.

“I still believe that our judicial system does not side with anyone. Anyone claiming that I am afraid of being convicted is actually afraid of me,” he told some 3,000 UMNO members at a special briefing late last month.

“These people are the ones who lack confidence and are afraid of their own shadows.”

Not everyone is happy with the verdict.

“(Big) step backward in fight against corruption and abuse of power in Malaysia,” political analyst Bridget Welsh said on Twitter.

“The Prosecution will likely appeal,” added the University of Nottingham Malaysia academic.

As of late Friday, there was no immediate public comment from senior opposition leaders.

Still, Friday’s verdict will be a shot in the arm for Zahid and UMNO, said Azmi Hassan, senior fellow at Akademi Nusantara, a local think-tank.

“The opposition can no longer say that the reason for UMNO to push for elections is because of the court cases. It is no longer relevant,” he told BenarNews.

“The acquittal will give a boost to Zahid’s position.” 

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Richard Lu
Sep 23, 2022 08:04 AM

The three Prosecution Witnesses should all be investigated for their wealth. All of them embezzled including Zahid Hamidi. Just that there are no clear evidence pointing to the fact that money was paid to ZH. The judge is correct in acquitting ZH. If the Prosecution wishes to appeal, they should bring indisputable evidence.