KUALA LUMPUR: The startling statements given by several key witnesses has prompted the defence counsel to suggest that they had worked in cahoots to gain kickbacks from the purchase of Merdeka Palace & Suites in Kuching.
Lawyer Datuk Salehuddin Saidin also claimed that his client, former Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) chairman Tan Sri Mohd Isa Samad was framed by 16th and 17th prosecution witnesses Ikhwan Zaidel and Azizi Abd Wahab, respectively.
A tense atmosphere prevailed during the proceedings at the High Court as Salehuddin further pressed Azizi on the transfers of RM3.9 million in several tranches to Ikhwan, purportedly for a political fund in Sarawak.
Ikhwan who was the former director of Gegasan Abadi Properties had appointed JV Evolution Sdn Bhd as the estate agent for Merdeka Palace Hotel & Suites.
Azizi who was JV Evolution director had introduced Ikhwan to Felda which eventually bought the premises for RM160 million on Oct 29, 2013.
Azizi in his witness statement said Ikhwan ordered him to return RM9 million from the RM10 million incentive that he received from the sale of Merdeka Palace Hotel & Suites.
Azizi revealed that he gave the money requested to Ikhwan before the latter claimed he transferred RM3.09 million cash to Isa through his then special officer, Muhammad Zahid Md Arip, on nine occasions between July 2014 and December 2015.
The duo in their testimony also confirmed that they did not keep a record of the transactions, which Salehuddin labelled as a ‘crazy act’.
The drama started when Salehuddin claimed that Ikhwan had been using JV Evolution as a ‘cover’ to siphon money from the purchasing of the hotel.
Salehuddin: Do you know the exact price agreed between Gegasan Abadi Properties and Felda on the purchase of the hotel?
Azizi: I only knew it to be more than RM150 million.
Salehuddin: You, as an estate agent, did not know the exact amount?
Salehuddin: They are just using your company as a cover to facilitate the payment.
Azizi: I disagree.
Salehuddin: Did you receive the RM10 million incentive?
Salehuddin: Did you return RM9 million to Ikhwan?
Salehuddin also questioned the issuance of cheques by Azizi to Ikhwan through the entities Jova Industries and Vortex Dew (M) Sdn Bhd.
Salehuddin: Checks revealed that two Bangladeshis, Nitto and Manamiah, were on their (both Jova Industries and Vortex Dew) boards of directors, do you know about this?
Salehuddin: Why are you using their cheque for payment to Ikhwan?
Azizi: Because it was proposed by our auditor Tan Associate.
Salehuddin: Did you know two Bangladeshis Nitto and Manamiah were on their board of directors?
Azizi: I do not know.
Salehuddin: Why are you using the said companies to withdraw the money?
Azizi: To help us as a property agent (agency)… We are very new in the industry.
Salehuddin then claimed that the act done by Azizi and Ikhwan (on the transfer of the money) was a scam.
He also suggested that both of them tried to blind the authorities with the ‘multiple’ layer of money transactions and they were working in cahoots to cheat.
Azizi said he disagreed with both suggestions and claimed that he agreed to transfer the money requested as he wanted to keep a good rapport with Ikhwan for further business opportunities in Sarawak.
The trial continues before judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali.
On Dec 14 last year, Isa pleaded not guilty to one count of CBT by approving the purchase of the Merdeka Palace & Suites Hotel without approval from the Felda board of directors on April 29, 2014.
The former Umno vice-president also faces nine counts of receiving graft totalling more than RM3 million from Gegasan Abadi Sdn Bhd’s director Ikhwan Zaidel between July 2014 and December 2015.