MALAYSIA — The Malaysia High Court has ruled against the permanent return of the personal passport for Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is the current Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, while his corruption case is still ongoing.
Mr Zahid has only been granted a temporary release of his passport for the purpose of applying for a diplomatic passport.
Justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah told Mr Zahid today (3 Feb) that he must return the passport to the court after applying for a diplomatic passport.
“No privilege, person or class above the law”
“The federal constitution stipulates that all persons are equal before the law and there shall be no privilege, person or class above the law,” said Justice Sequerah.
“The court, nonetheless, takes cognisance of the fact that as a deputy prime minister and as a minister, the accused has official duties to perform.”
“These duties must not clash with the duty to appear in court, because the court also has its functions to perform, ” the judge said.
Zahid’s passport was previously surrendered to the court and was in the court’s safekeeping as an additional bail condition after he was charged in court.
He had previously made an application to the High Court to have his passport returned permanently, so he could carry out his duties as Deputy Prime Minister.
He claims that he was faced with restrictions in carrying out his duty as a minister as he did not have access to his travel document.
UMNO chairman facing 47 criminal charges
70-year-old Zahid, Chairman of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), is currently facing 47 charges – 12 for criminal breach of trust (CBT), eight for corruption and 27 for money laundering – involving tens of millions of ringgit belonging to Yayasan Akalbudi (YAB).
For the 12 CBT charges, he is alleged to have used the funds for personal expenses such as credit card payments, insurance policies, vehicle licenses, remittances to a law firm, and contributions to a police football association.
The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in jail, whipping, and a fine.
On 23 September last year, Mr Zahid was acquitted of all 40 graft charges against him in Foreign Visa System (VLN) case.
UMNO, led by Mr Zahid, has been recently purging its own party members, including former health minister Khairy Jamaluddin and supreme council member Tan Sri Noh Omar, who were sacked for “breaching party discipline” during the GE15.
Mr Zahid claimed that UMNO was undergoing “mass cleansing” to eliminate “saboteurs”, and those who have “shot themselves in the foot”.
Following Barisan Nasional (BN)’s tragic loss in GE15, Zahid, as its chairman, has been embattled with criticism and calls to step down.
With only 30 seats secured out of the contested 177 seats, BN saw its worst result in the coalition’s history.
UMNO won 26 out of 120 contested seats, while another BN component party, the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), gained only two seats out of 44 contested seats.