KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 21): Questions surrounding the receipt issued by Umno for the RM2 million donation by businessman Tan Sri Chai Kin Kong and the fact that there was no money transferred from Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor-controlled Tadmansori Holdings Sdn Bhd to Umno were the crucial factors that led to the former minister's conviction today in his graft case.
High Court judge Justice Mohamed Zaini Mazlan said Chai, who had known Tengku Adnan for many years, had demonstrated his biasness in favour of the ex-minister with regard to the receipt.
"I will therefore disregard his testimony only in respect of the Umno receipt," he said in his 87-page judgement.
The doubt arose as Chai, managing director of Aset Kayamas Sdn Bhd, only produced a copy of the receipt when he was testifying in court for the prosecution, whereas no mention of it was made to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).
Justice Zaini said that while he accepted the receipt being admitted as a defence exhibit, it cannot be taken as incontrovertible proof that the RM2 million was a political donation.
"I find it incredible that Chai did not think it was crucial to inform the MACC officers of the existence of the Umno receipt, when he appeared before them several times to have his statements taken. If he had only found the receipt, one would have expected him to inform the MACC the minute he found it," he said.
"I would also expect Chai to give the Umno receipt to Aset Kayamas financial comptroller Lai Vui Long, the person who oversaw the preparation of the cheque. If Aset Kayamas had issued the RM2 million as a political donation, it would have been necessary for the company to have a copy of the receipt for auditing and recording purposes.
"I find it highly questionable that this was not done particularly if Chai had indeed received the Umno receipt from the accused two days after he had given the cheque," he quizzed.
Tengku Adnan, or Ku Nan as he is affectionately known, was found guilty by the High Court, under Section 165 of the Penal Code, of accepting RM2 million from Chai that was deposited into Tadmansori Holdings, in which the minister had an interest, on June 14, 2016.
Justice Zaini said he scrutinised the Umno receipt and it was crisp and new.
"I find it remarkable considering that it was issued four years ago in June 2016 and kept in Chai's wallet. The fact that the receipt was signed by the accused has not escaped my observation.
"The fact that the only duplicate copy missing in this receipt book was that of the Umno receipt raises a red flag. Even more alarming is the fact that the date of the Umno receipt is not in sequence to the receipts issued before and after it. The receipt issued before Tengku Adnan's receipt was dated Nov 12, 2018 while the receipt in question in sequence was dated Nov 16, 2016.
"The first receipt in the receipt book was dated Aug 24, 2017 and the last one dated May 6, 2019. The Umno receipt (signed by Tengku Adnan) was glaringly the only one out of sequence," he said.
Following this, he ruled that the Umno receipt must be treated with absolute suspicion and he will not attach any weight to it, as it should have been issued by Tadmansori (the recipient) and not Umno.
"It makes no sense for Umno to issue the receipt when the cheque was not banked into its account. If the money is meant for Umno, the party could have given Chai or his company any other form of acknowledgement such as a letter, not a receipt. Any auditor auditing Umno's accounts would question the Umno receipt, as there was no RM2 million payment made into the party account.
"Evidence shows that Tadmansori has never had any dealing with Umno (as testified by its employees). The only plausible conclusion is the payment was meant to benefit the accused. The fact the accused specifically instructed Chai to make the cheque payable to Tadmansori and not Umno could only mean that he (the minister) intended to benefit himself from the inception," the judge said.
Justice Zaini rejected Ku Nan's claim that the charge against him was a political conspiracy against him.
"The accused's complaint is not novel. He is not the first politician charged with a criminal offence that has complained of a political conspiracy as this also happened to former Selangor menteri besar Datuk Haron Idris," he said.
Justice Zaini said while defence witnesses had produced a budget sheet for the Kuala Kangsar and Sungai Besar by-elections showing a total amount of RM1.013 million, his own calculation shows it was only RM986,200.
"The alleged budget sheet was hastily made up. The budget prepared by Datuk Zakaria Dullah (then Barisan Nasional coordinator) was equally doubtful when he admitted during cross-examination that it was merely an estimate of the proposed expenditure. I also find it remarkable that he has disposed of all receipts on the alleged expenses but kept the budget sheet," the judge said.
The court also found that it was not denied that Tadmansori assistant accounts manager, Rabiatul Adawiyah Sobri, had testified that the company had never made any payment to Umno.
"She and Tadmansori's chief operating officer Datuk Hasbi Jaafar also testified that the company had never had any dealings with Aset Kayamas," Justice Zaini said, adding that this led the court to find Tengku Adnan guilty as it did not manage to raise doubts on the prosecution's case.
Justice Zaini sentenced the former minister to 12 months' jail and fined him RM2 million, in default of six months' jail.
Tengku Adnan is the second minister after former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to be convicted and sentenced to a jail term this year.