Ex-TH chairman Azeez's employment at company does not constitute graft, argues defence

Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim (Photo by Sam Fong/The Edge)

Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim (Photo by Sam Fong/The Edge)

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KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 23): Lawyers for Baling member of Parliament (MP) Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim today cried foul at the High Court over the graft charges levied against their client, arguing the lawmaker was working for the company he is accused of taking a bribe from.

His counsel Amer Hamzah Arshad said the prosecution also acknowledged that Azeez is working for the company Menuju Asas Sdn Bhd, where he is an adviser and receives a monthly salary of RM10,000.

"MPs are allowed to go into business or other endeavours, as long as it does not violate their principal duties. Furthermore, there are media reports that (said) my client is being investigated on charges in relation to Tabung Haji (TH) where he was chairman.

"Yet, in the former Attorney-General's (Tan Sri Tommy Thomas) book, he did reiterate that the prosecution had found no case against Azeez in relation to TH. Hence, he is absolved of any wrongdoing in relation to TH," he said.

He added that the charges against Azeez in relation to Menuju Asas are aimed at tarnishing his reputation in his constituency, which he won in 2013 and defended in 2018.

"We submit the corruption and money laundering charges are mala fide (bad intention)," he said.

Amer Hamzah and his team are seeking to strike out Azeez's criminal charges. He is facing three counts of bribery involving RM5.2 million linked to road projects in Perak and Kedah obtained by Menuju Asas, and nine counts of money laundering involving nearly RM140 million, while his brother Datuk Abdul Latif Abdul Rahim is charged with abetting him.

Azeez allegedly committed the offences between Dec 8, 2010 and April 10, 2018.

The lawyer told the High Court that it has inherent jurisdiction to consider striking out the charges if it found the charges imposed on his client to be mala fide.

'Charges defective and groundless'

Amer Hamzah also called the charges defective and groundless as the nine money laundering charges merely stipulate a general venue, namely the Klang Valley.

He questioned how the defence was able to put up a defence for Azeez given how wide-ranging the charges were.

Furthermore, one of the bribery charges involves four distinct projects; moreover, the charge alleges Azeez had helped the company obtain the project, but he does not hold any position of public authority to determine the award of the tender, argued Amer Hamzah.

"This, is against the requirement in the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) which stipulates there should be separate charges for distinct offences. The charges imposed on my client are not only duplicity but account for multiplicity which do not follow the CPC.

"Furthermore, the charges in relation to the money laundering are not particularised. What form or what manner of the proceeds needs to be particularised in the charges. There are certain sets of facts which need to be stated and the charges preferred by the prosecution have failed in this," he said, adding that for these reasons, the charges seem vague and thus, the High Court should rule a discharge.

The lawyer said the amendment of the money-laundering charges also failed to meet the conditions set in the CPC, claiming it had made the case much more worse and unfair for the defence.

"The defence says the charges had prejudiced our client and for these reasons, the court should consider in striking out the charges that is imposed," he said.

'Charges are in order', trial ongoing

The prosecution led by deputy public prosecutors Aslinda Ahad and Nik Haslinie Hashim told the court that the charges are in order and Azeez is not prejudiced.

They said that the trial had already started with five witnesses already testified at the Sessions Court.

"The High Court should let the Sessions Court continue with the trial and the judge evaluate the evidence in its entirety. We say that Azeez is not prejudiced as he can raise the same thing in the High Court in the Sessions Court which is already hearing this case," Aslinda said.

She added that while the court has the inherent jurisdiction to strike out a charge, it does not have wide-ranging powers to strike out and ignore the facts in allowing the trial to proceed.

Aslinda said the application filed by Azeez is an abuse of the court process and premature as justice would be served if the trial is allowed to go on.

She added that there is no prejudice on the accused and strongly denied accusations of mala fide.

"In fact, we oppose the application today for the accused to be discharged and acquitted. If this is allowed, then it would amount to mala fide for the prosecution in trying to prove its case," Aslinda added.

She said the charges are in order as the four projects are related to one project.

"It (the gratification) came from the same project. We say that the charges are made or framed in a proper manner that is in accordance to Section 153 of the Criminal Procedure Code stipulating the place and time of the offence and did not omit vital evidence," she said.

Justice Datuk Muhammad Jamil Hussin fixed March 12 to deliver his decision, when the Sessions Court is scheduled to continue to hear Azeez's case the next day (March 13).

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