Malaysia’s ‘court cluster’ gets respite as Umno boss Zahid is acquitted in bribery case
- Zahid, an ally of former leader Najib Razak, is part of ‘court cluster’ of Umno politicians facing criminal cases
- He faces a second corruption trial but his acquittal is relief for Umno as it eyes a return to power after its historic loss in the watershed 2018 election
Zahid was acquitted after the prosecution failed to establish a prima facie case against him, according to local media citing High Court Judge Mohd Yazid Mustafa. He was on trial over bribery accusations in Malaysia’s foreign visa system while he was home minister.
Speaking to supporters after Friday’s ruling, Zahid, 69, reiterated that he was not involved in any wrongdoing.
“I was vilified and embarrassed, but today I have been vindicated. The truth has prevailed,” said Zahid at the Shah Alam High Court.
Flanked by Umno leaders including his deputy Mohamad Hasan and Umno secretary general Ahmad Maslan, Zahid thanked supporters and attributed his victory to Umno and the Barisan Nasional coalition.
“I know who my true friends are,” he said.
The 40 charges in the foreign visa corruption case and a separate 47 charges have given Zahid Hamidi the ignominious status as the member within the court cluster with the most corruption charges, besting even former premier Najib’s 42 charges across five criminal trials.
Polls have to be held by September 2023, and Ismail Sabri has so far resisted similar calls from Umno leaders.
“Remember, if they win [the next election], they can close the cases. That’s why we dispute the rationale for the proposed dissolution,” Anwar said at a party rally in June.
Aside from Zahid, Friday also saw controversial Umno lawmaker Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim granted a discharge not amounting to an acquittal in his corruption case by the Kuala Lumpur sessions court.
This came after the prosecution requested for the order to allow them to investigate new leads in the case, following Azeez’s own representation to throw out the charges against him.
He was charged in 2019 with accepting bribes amounting to 5.2 million ringgit (US$1.1 million) in connection with a road construction project.